A remarkably well-preserved early medieval tunnel-system has been uncovered near the town of Naas in Co. Kildare. Probably over a 1000 years old, it was discovered by two archaeologists, Will O’Siorain and Robert Breen, as they monitored topsoil stripping on behalf of ACSU.
Also known as souterrains, early medieval tunnels such as the Naas example were most likely utilised as places of refuge during times of trouble. In addition, they may also have been used for storing valuables and perishable food stuffs, with the relatively low temperatures inside the tunnels helping to preserve the latter. Research suggests that the majority of souterrrains date from between 750 and 1250 AD (Clinton 2001, p. 95).
At Naas the souterrain contains at least three passages, the longest of which measures nearly 9 meters in length. There is also an internal chamber present and this measures circa 5.16 meters long by 1.22 meters wide by 1.70 meters high.
Access between the two main passages is restricted by a very low and narrow creep space, which may have been a defensive feature. The sides of the souterrain consist of carefully built stone walls and these support a roof of large stone slabs. The roof was in-turn covered in earth, which camouflaged the tunnel system from the surface. To date the only artefact discovered inside the monument is an iron sickle and this was identified on the floor of the internal chamber.
According to Donald Murphy of Archaeological Consultancy Services Unit.
‘The souterrain will be 100 percent surveyed and recorded before a decision is made on whether it shall be excavated’.
Thanks to Donald Murphy and Will O’Siorain for their assistance with this blog post.
Clinton, M. 2001 The Souterrains of Ireland. Wordwell Bray.