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A causeway built of oak planks, on a bed of beams and gravel, has been discovered during a walking survey of a bog in Co. Tipperary. Archaeologists have dated wood from the 300 metre by 4 metre structure to the Late Bronze Age, but are still scratching their heads over a couple of other details. Eoghan MacConnell writes, in the Irish Times;

“Mystery still remains as to the exact purpose of the road. Although the track is large enough to take wheeled vehicles, archaeologists have found no evidence of hoof prints or wheel ruts. “Interestingly, in this particular site, we have, in two of the cuttings, an upright timber with a hole in it along the northern end of the site, purpose and function as yet unknown.”

A toll-booth? Anyone for a Bronze Age version of the M3, with toll dodging carts avoiding the causeway by sludging through the bog at the southern end? – whatever the impetus, building it must have been a massive undertaking. Here, by way of comparison (and, beside the hyperbole, a decent account of the necessary labour), is one of Mider’s tasks from ‘The Wooing of Etain’ (trans. Gantz 1981);

“No person had ever walked out on the bog, but, after that, Echu commanded his steward to go out and see how the causeway was laid down. The steward went out into the bog, and it seemed that every man in the world was assembling there from sunrise to sunset… The trees of the forest, with their trunks and their roots, went into the foundation of the causeway, while Mider stood and encouraged the workers on every side. You would have thought that every man in the world was there making noise. After that, clay and gravel and stones were spread over the bog.” The tale goes on to state that oxen, yoked across the shoulders – for the first ever time, were used to lay the trackway on top.

A bit up country though, in Westmeath. Allegedly. In any case, the full Irish Times report, with picture, is here:

http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0902/1224278050626.html

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