County Dublin man Joe Thompson became the first human in probably centuries to explore an ancient souterrain.
Joe Thompson is a landscape enthusiast and wildlife expert from Donabate in North County Dublin, on the east coast of Ireland. In the past few days, he and some friends discovered what archaeologist think is probably an abandoned medieval souterrain – an underground stone tunnel network that probably once provided storage for foodstuffs and hiding places from Vikings.
In this incredible video, shot by Joe this week, he shows us the amazing moment when he explores the interior of the souterrain for the first time.
He is probably the first human in centuries to see its interior.
The souterrain was discovered accidentally by Joe's farmer friend Denis, who rents the land and grows cauliflowers on it. A harrow dislodged a stone forming part of the souterrain's roof and revealed the mysterious ancient tunnels beneath. This is now many souterrains have been discovered in Ireland over the decades.
Souterrains are not for the faint-hearted or those suffering with claustrophobia. Often they are not tall enough to stand up in and so require you to hunker or crawl through. Most souterrains are thought to date from roughly the 9th to the 12th centuries AD. It is thought they were used to store food at cool temperatures, mainly dairy produce, but they are likely to have also been used as hiding places from Viking raids, which became prevalent in the 9th century.
One stone in the souterrain at Donabate has markings on it which Joe suggests might be Ogham, an ancient form of writing in Ireland dating generally from the 4th to the 6th centuries AD.
The discovery has been reported to the National Monuments Service, which is sending a representative to the site this weekend to have a closer look at the new find.
Hundreds of souterrains have been found in various parts of Ireland. There are 18 souterrains recorded in County Dublin alone, and over 1,000 examples nationwide.
Enter the ‘Ancient Sites’ section of this blog for a fascinating and wide-ranging exploration of the megalithic and sacred sites of Ireland. Find out all about the Stone Age and prehistoric ruins and learn more about the possible functions and alignments of these sites. Visit the great temples of Brú na Bóinne, the Hill of Tara, the ancient cairns of Loughcrew among many others.
Explore the ancient myths, legends and folklore of Ireland and their meaning. Read the epic Táin Bó Cuailnge, or the place-name myths in the Dindshenchas. Learn about how the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians came to Ireland and how the early texts describe various invasions of prehistoric Éire. Hear about Fionn and the Fianna, and discover how some myths might contain information about astronomy and the stars.
There is no doubt that the ancient megalith builders had a substantial knowledge of the movements of the sun, moon, planets and stars through the heavens. Learn more about just how complex and impressive this knowledge was. There is evidence that the people of the Neolithic knew about the 19-year Metonic cycle of the moon, as well as being able to predict eclipses.