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Book Launch PHOTOGRAPHS (July 13th 2003)

Book Launch PRESS RELEASE (July 18th 2003)

PROBLEMS concerning plan to put new N6 Road through middle of Knocknadala
(September 24th 2003)

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Oral tradition was of immense importance to the Celtic people in prehistoric times. When history began to be recorded in written documents about the 7th Century, the work was carried out by scribes of the larger ruling families. What was recorded was totally at odds with the oral tradition. But over the years, since we have a tendency to believe the written word, this is what became accepted as history. This written version of history in archaic documents like the Book of Leinster and the Book of Armagh were thought to be correct at the expense of oral tradition and legendary history in the Dindsenchas documents. And so pseudo-history was born. To account for the differences between the written and oral history a certain mythology was created around early Iron Age history, to the extent that it is now difficult to distinguish between fact and fantasy. However, oral history has lived on and has been passed from father to son for generations around the fire. In addition, archaeological evidence has also survived the passage of time. Both the oral tradition and archaeological evidence in Galway confound the ‘truth’ of Irish Iron Age history. Because of changing lifestyle and changing agricultural practices in the 20th Century, both the oral traditions and archaeological evidence of Galway are in danger of being lost, giving victory to pseudo-history.

This book revitalises the oral traditions, reconstructs archaeological evidence and delves into archaic documents for scraps of unaltered written evidence for the existence of Celtic Centres of Power in Galway. The conclusions are quite clear and shatter the accepted ‘truth’ of Iron Age Irish history suggesting a total re-evaluation of the origins and history of Celtic Ireland.

It is not the intention of the book to detract from the present understanding of Irish history, although by its nature this is inevitable. It is intended to give recognition to the people and places that were important in Iron Age Ireland and to the people who carried the oral traditions over the centuries so that they could be resurrected almost 2000 years later. 

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Linear embankments

A series of linear earthen banks surrounded Turoe Hill. They consisted of a set of three parallel linear embankments with transverse ramparts linking these at intervals. The set took in a belt of land some 400 meters wide. According to the information passed down from father to son in the area each earthwork of the set was approximately 60 feet wide. These were levelled in the course of land improvement projects by landlords in the 19th century, or later by farm owners, leaving only the outer lip embankment, which was trimmed in size, as a field fence. In the vicinity of Turoe House, as the custom was, these embankments were trimmed down in size as neat entrance ways or estate enclosures.

Vestiges of the surviving embankments are marked on the 1894 O.S. 25" Map and on the 1933 O.S. 6" Map Sheet 97. Locals refer to these embankments as the inner double ditches as opposed to the outer ward sets, which they point out running for long distances through the Co. Galway countryside.

A similar set of embankments can be reconstructed around the adjoining Knocknadala Hill.

The name "Knocknadala" comes from "Cnoc na Dail", which means "Hill of Parliament".  There seems to be no other place in Ireland of that name.

Similar linear embankments can also be reconstructed around the nearby town of Athenry.

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Sites around Turoe

The Turoe Stone was first brought to the attention of the public in 1902 and since then it has become recognised as one of the most important pieces of stone art in Europe. However, its purpose has not been unequivocally determined, although an important ceremonial function has been frequently suggested.

There is a vast array of other sites of archaeological interest surrounding the Turoe Stone original site, although these, for the most part, have not been recognised. These include linear embankments, ancient roads, standing stones, a stone circle, burial mounds and ringforts. Sadly, many of these sites are now destroyed and remain but a trace on the ground, a feature on an old map or a memory in the minds of locals. Others still exist but are threatened by agricultural practices, road construction and a lack of knowledge of their existence.

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Ancient road system

There are traces of several ancient roads in the oral history and landscape around Turoe. These include the following:

Sli Dala: This ancient highway (thought locally to have run from Knocknadala to Roscrea) is still known by many old people as Sli Dala, but it had several other local names such as Bealach Mor Muigh Dala, Sean Bealach, Bealach Mor and Slighe Mor Dala. Several short sections, with banks intact, remain in the Turoe/Athenry area.

Escir Riada: The Escir Riada ran from the renowned Iron Age sea port of Ath Clee Magh Ree near Clarenbridge across the country to Ath Clee Dubhlinn (Dublin). From Clarenbridge it ran to Athenry and east to Knockatogher, where it swung south through Raford and, according to local oral history, on to Knocknadala and Turoe. A section of sunken roadway known as Escir Riada exists on the North of Knocknadala Hill. On reaching the summit of the hill the road continued east, where the continuation was still known as Escir Riada. This road is clearly shown on the 1933 O.S. map. Several long sections can be traced on the O.S. maps as well as on the ground.

Rot na Ri: ‘Rot na Ri’ is another ancient road both on elderly local lips in the Turoe/Knocknadala vicinity and in archaic legendary material such as the Dindsenchas poem "Magh Fot ar Rot na Ri" which corroborates the route of the road through Moyode and straight on to Clarinbridge. Although that section of it which descended west from the heights of Knocknadala Hill was levelled out before the 1933 O.S. map was published, its course is still shown as a 'pathway' on that map, although locals remember it as a banked roadway.

Sli Coolan: This ancient road through Fearta was known as Sarsfield's Road from the passage of Sarsfield’s army retreating to Limerick from the Battle of Aughrim. Its original name was 'Sli Coolan' according to many locals.

Intriguingly, Escir Riada and Sligh Dala are claimed to have been among the 5 great roads of ancient Ireland. Why do they converge on the site of the Turoe Stone at Turoe/Knocknadala in Galway?

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The site at Cotni.

In the townland of Carrowkeel, close to Turoe, there is a 40-acre archaeological site locally known as Cotni. The National Monuments and Historic Properties has placed a Preservation Order on Cotni and listed it as a National Monument. It consists of a series of ancient "streets" of little houses, close-set ringforts and a complex of earthworks. Originally the site covered many hundreds of acres, sprawling across Carrowkeel, Clogharevaun and Kiltulla, but much of it was cleared in land reclamation and the drawing of stone for road building and feeding of lime-kilns. It is claimed locally that it is the remaining part of an ancient city.

The renowned 2nd century geographer and cartoligist, Ptolemy of Alexandria in Egypt, recorded "the most extensive and illustrious acropolis (urban population centre) in all Britannia" in the west of Ireland. As further corroboration of Ptolemy’s record and local tradition, early Dindsenchas (history of royal sites) material referred to "the dense population" of this area: "O Maen na treibh tuillte co rein na fairrigi." meaning "from densely populated Maen Magh to the sea." Mean Magh is the ancient name of the plain at whose centre stands the Turoe/Knocknadala complex. Significantly, no other area of ancient Ireland was accredited with a dense population as was Maen Magh.

The current thinking that the Irish in pre-history did not live in urban centres is in direct conflict with the striking evidence, both archaeological and documentary, that is presented in the book.

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Celtic significance of placenames

The placenames around Turoe/Knocknadala reverberate with Celtic significance.

A Celtic Royal Centre of Power consisted of an Assembly site, a Ceremonial site, a Royal Cemetery and a place set aside for poets, bards and druids. A cluster of townlands around the original location of the Turoe Stone has all these indications of a Centre of Power. These are Knocknadala (Cnoc na Dail or Hill of Parliament), an assembly site; Fearta , a Royal Cemetery; Abernaville and Rath na bFhille, a place for poets; and what better Ceremonial site than Turoe Hill with the world famous Turoe Stone?

Many Celtic Tribes have also left their name on townlands. The following are but a few examples:

Tribe, Townland

  • Menappi Mannin, Ballymannagh
  • Marescii, Carrownamorrissey
  • Cantii, Ganty
  • Atrebates, Killarrive (Coill Athreabh)
  • Votadini (Fotads), Myode (Magh Fhot)

There are Royal connotations to many of the ringforts in the area and many of the townland names are derived directly from Celtic gods. Included were words for earthen embankments. Consistently along the linear embankments reconstructed in the book the old Irish words ‘roo’, ‘doo’, ‘curragh’ and ‘sonnagh’ appear in the townland names. There are also many local placenames called ‘the curraghs’ and ‘the rooans’.

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Ptolemy's map.

Ptolemy was a Greek geographer/cartographer of the 1st/2nd century A.D. He left a series of co-ordinates that can be drawn into a map of Ireland at that time. In the absence of other contemporary documents, this map is an invaluable source on early Ireland.

Ptolemy recorded two Royal Capitals (REGIA) in the Ireland of his day. He placed one of his Royal Capitals in the NE of Ireland simply as ‘REGIA’. This is generally identified as Ulster’s ancient Royal Capital, Emain Macha, in Armagh. He located his 2nd ‘REGIA’ at the centre of Co. Galway in the West of Ireland. His record in its present state has ‘Regia etera’ which should be amended to its original ‘Regia e Tera’ (Regia e Te(mh)ra). This can be interpreted as ‘Royal Capital of Turoe’. It is extremely significant that neither of Ptolemy’s ‘Regia’ was Tara of Meath. Tara, the so-called ‘Royal Capital of Ireland from time immemorial’, is conspicuous only by its absence from Ptolemy’s record.

Also in Ptolemy’s record is a river called the ‘Dur’. This is extremely significant as the Dughiortach (Dunkellin) River is also called the ‘Doreythra’, which is certainly related to ‘Dur’. The turlough that this river flows into, while now called Rahasane Lake was known to elderly locals as ‘Dur Lough’. While the ‘Dur’ river is in the wrong place on Ptolemy’s record to equate to the Dughiortach (Dunkellin), so to is the ‘Senos’ in the wrong place to correspond with the Shannon. The list of names along the whole west coast of Ireland as given by Ptolemy have been read from top to bottom instead of the other way around and so the map is generally drawn upside down. When read in the right manner all the names fall into their right positions, including the Shannon and the Dur (An Dughiortach).

Also in Ptolemy’s 1st/2nd Century record of Ireland the name ‘Auterii’ appears in the place where Athenry is today. Ptolemy’s ‘Auteinri’ is a perfect Greek rendition of the ancient name of Athenry, Ait an Ri, as it was pronounced.

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Book Launch (July 13th 2003)

Book Cover

Turoe/Knocknadala embankments  >>> to be added later

Athenry embankments 

Embankments prepared for road construction  >>> to be added later

Ancient roads  >>> to be added later





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Book Launch      Order Book      Like to help?      Photograph List


Map 1 (Athenry/Galway Bay Area)               Map 2 (Bullaun / Turoe) Area)


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Book Launch      Order Book      Like to help?      Photograph List


Map 1 (Athenry/Galway Bay Area)               Map 2 (Bullaun / Turoe) Area)


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