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The Óenach project is a short term research endeavor funded by an IRCHSS New Ideas grant. It was established to examine the role of the óenach in early medieval Irish society, and more particularly, to examine the manner in which such assembly landscapes are located with a view to analysing that institution’s archaeological manifestation.

Silliothill barrow: on the top of a hill forming the focus of Óenach Carmain’s landscape

Although most often translated as fair/market, the term óenach is a derivative of ‘one’, articulating concepts of unification. Originally óenach signified the principal assembly of the body politic of either one or several kingdoms, presided over and convened by a king, for purposes of holding law courts, promulgating laws, negotiating alliances, but also, as an occasion of general festivity, where sporting events like horse-racing were an integral part. As such, the óeanch is the early Irish equivalent of the pan-European practice of civil assembly, where the buisness of various scales of community was carried out and negotiated.

Raith Airthir (Tetown) with large mound in NE quadrant

The óenach project is actively engaged in employing various survey methods to óenach landscapes, in order to examine their origins, development, and archaeological iconography. The major case studies of the project pertains to the best known, and most securely located of early Irelands assembly landscapes: Óenach Tailtiu, Óenach Carmain, Óenach Senclochair/Culí Mná Nechtain, Óenach Cairbre and Óenach Áine. As a part of this research, Geophysical survey is being carried out at Knockainy Co. Limerick (Óenach Áine), and LiDAR data has been aquired and analysed for Teltown Co. Meath (Óenach Tailtiu) and Raheenamadra/Clogher Hill near Knocklong Co. Limerick (Óenach Culí). In due course imagery and this data will be made available and posted along with updates on this page.

A select bibliography pertaining to assembly places and practices in Ireland and abroad can be found at Óenach Bibliography

In addition, one of the main aims of the project is to establish a preliminary discourse regarding the origins, function and evolution of the early Irish institution of óenach. As such, the project will be holding a conference in the Department of Archaeology, University College Cork, on the 24th and 25th of March. At this event a number of scholars, from across various disciplines, will examine particular assembly landscapes and practices, alongside the role of the óenach in early Irish society. A list of speakers and preliminary titles and programme is available on the conference page above.


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