Research Projects

Kilcashel Landscape Project

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Project: Kilcashel Landscape Project

Directors: Dr. James Bonsall, IT Sligo

Location: Kilcashel townland, Kilmovee, County Mayo

Year: 2009-2014

Funding: The Heritage Council (2010), Earthsound Archaeological Geophysics (2009-2014), Centre for Environmental Research Innovation And Sustainability (2018)


Aim: The application of landscape archaeology methods and techniques to comprehensively assess the townland of Kilcashel and disseminate that information to the public. The project addresses issues concerning settlement dispersal – “from cashel to cottage” and in particular, the formation and development of several enclosures, ringforts and cashels in the townland. The project examines the significance of historical documentation, cartographic sources, architecture, archaeology and ecology, together with the results of 20th century excavations and new non-intrusive investigations.

A five year plan (2009-2014) was established to collate historical & archaeological data of Kilcashel and combine this with new data gathered non-intrusively by field-walking, topographic mapping, geophysics and standing building recording. The data was examined and compared with the settlement history and the natural resources of the area. This data assessed how resources were exploited throughout history by the local community, what influences the community had on land beyond the immediate study area and how Kilcashel itself has been influenced by external forces and events.

Outcomes: The unique outputs of this project include a Folklore Database, a record of local folklore for the townland of Kilcashel that has been captured via GIS into a “folkscape” that can be examined via Google Maps:

The folklore database relied solely on data gathered from local sources, with time spent by the author to collate and map them using a GIS. The KLP also utilised the established and focused community spirit to share those stories and keep them relevant and alive within the “folkscape”.

Mini-workshops were used to teach community volunteers to use and search for relevant online resources. Peer to peer learning allowed participants to assist one another and ultimately led to the discovery of new online resources as they became available. This was an unexpected and gratifying result of the KLP, as some of the volunteers, although willing and able, had not previously ventured far in the online world beyond basic search engines and news websites.

Looking back at the objectives identified in 2009, the KLP was overly ambitious for a five year project. Many of the research areas were trimmed back, principally due to lack of funding. In fact, nearly a decade later, the research continues in an unfunded and piecemeal way, driven by community interest and new, often freely available, digital technology and online resources.

Bonsall, J. 2020. ‘Engaging the Community: The Kilcashel Landscape Project’. In Baker, C. (ed.) Partnership & Participation: Community Archaeology in Ireland. Wordwell.

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