Society Logo
 New Buildings and District
 Archaeological and Historical Society
Society Logo




Home

About us

Programme

Publications

Gallery

Links




E-mail us at:
info@newbuildingshistorical.org.uk

Write to us at:
80 Stoneypath
Newbuildings
Londonderry
BT47 2AF






Souterrains


What are souterrains?

Souterrain (from French 'sous terrain', meaning 'under ground') is a name given by archaeologists to a type of underground structure associated mainly with the Atlantic Iron Age.

Souterrains are underground galleries and, in their early stages, were always associated with a settlement. The galleries were dug out and then lined with stone slabs or wood before being reburied. They do not appear to have been used for burial or ritual purposes and it has been suggested that they were food stores or hiding places during times of strife, although some of them would have had very obvious entrances. They are often found inside or in close proximity to a ringfort and as such are thought to be mainly contemporary with them. This date is reinforced by many examples where ogham stones, dating to around the sixth century have been reused as roofing lintels or door posts. Their distribution is very uneven in Ireland with the most notable concentration centred around County Louth. A short summary account of souterrains in Ireland appeared in the quarterly magazine Archaeology Ireland in 2004.

IArtists drawing to show a small rath c.800AD.  Note the deep circular ditch with the earth banked up against the palisade fence.  The family lived in a wooden and earth house within the rath and their animals were brought in at night.  Most raths were much larger and contained a number of houses for an extended family.   align= Artists drawing to show a small rath c.800AD. Note the deep circular ditch with the earth banked up against the palisade fence. The family lived in a wooden and earth house within the rath and their animals were brought in at night. Most raths were much larger and contained a number of houses for an extended family.
Artists drawing of a Rath containing a number of houses c.800AD Artists drawing of a Rath containing a number of houses c.800AD.
Artists drawing of a souterrain below an enclosure c. 800AD.  Note the escape tunnel from the house leading to a Artists drawing of a souterrain below an enclosure c. 800AD. Note the escape tunnel from the house leading to a "creep" into a larger cave from which there was an escape to outside the enclosure.
Image taken from internet to show the interior of a souterrain found in the south of Ireland. Image taken from internet to show the interior of a souterrain found in the south of Ireland.
Image taken from the internet to show the interior of a souterrain with a curving wall. Image taken from the internet to show the interior of a souterrain with a curving wall.
<- Page 1




Hosted by by The Federation for Ulster Local Studies

Designed by © Pat Devlin 2009