Field Systems

Field systems are complex agricultural landscapes that were created during the prehistoric and early historic periods in Ireland. These systems are characterised by large open fields divided into smaller units by boundary features such as banks, ditches, and walls. They are often associated with settlement sites, and are considered to be among the earliest examples of organised agriculture in Europe.

The study of field systems has been of great interest to archaeologists for many years, as they provide valuable insights into the evolution of land use and agricultural practices in the past. In Ireland, field systems are particularly abundant in the west and northwest of the country, and are thought to date to the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age.

The study of field systems requires an interdisciplinary approach, incorporating techniques from archaeology, geology, soil science, and ecology. Archaeologists study the boundary features of the field systems, such as banks and ditches, to determine their construction methods and dates of use. They also examine the arrangement and distribution of these features to understand the way in which the fields were used and managed.

Geologists and soil scientists examine the geology and soil conditions of the field systems, looking for evidence of soil erosion, soil fertility, and land degradation. This information can be used to determine the types of crops that were grown in the fields, and to reconstruct the environmental conditions that existed at the time.

Ecologists study the vegetation of the field systems, looking for evidence of woodland management, pastures, and crop production. They also study the landscape context of the field systems, examining the relationship between the fields and nearby rivers, wetlands, and other environmental features.

The study of field systems has the potential to provide valuable insights into the development of early agricultural practices in Ireland. It offers a window into the lives of our prehistoric ancestors, and can help us understand how they adapted to their changing environment and built sustainable agricultural landscapes.

Interactive Maps of Field Systems in the Republic of Ireland