Moynagh Lough – Amplify Archaeology Podcast – Episode 34


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Moynagh Lough

Dig into the Story of this incredible legacy project in Amplify Archaeology Podcast Episode 34 with Dr Michael Potterton

Moynagh Lough

Dig into the Story of this incredible legacy project in Amplify Archaeology Podcast Episode 34 with Dr Michael Potterton

Moynagh Lough is hidden away in a quiet hollow in the drumlin landscape near the village of Nobber in County Meath. From the late 19th century, hints began to emerge of it being a place of importance, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s, 80s and 90s, that the scale and complexity of Moynagh Lough came to light. Now a new project picks up the threads, to weave together the wealth of information that the site can tell us about Ireland’s past. Dr Michael Potterton joins us for a fascinating discussion about what it all might mean.

In this episode of the Amplify Archaeology Podcast, Neil had the opportunity to chat with Dr Michael Potterton of Maynooth University. Michael’s core field of research is the history and archaeology of medieval Ireland, with special reference to landscape and settlement. From 1996 to 1998 Michael was the Assistant Director on the excavations at Moynagh Lough.

Moynagh Lough is one of those sites that looms large in the mind of many in Irish archaeology. The first indications that it was a place of significance came in the late-19th century, when a local farmer, inspired by William Wood-Martin’s seminal writings on Lake Dwellings of Ireland, recognised some similar features in a small peninsula known locally as ‘The Island’, that was set in a little lake where he liked to fish. He recovered items like a grinding stone, a flint knife, a piece of a jet bracelet, and an ogham-inscribed piece of antler. He sent them to Wood-Martin, who identified the site as a crannóg. He was given a grant from the Royal Irish Academy to investigate the monument. However the project was short-lived and Moynagh Lough was forgotten again for nearly a century.

In the 1970s, it reemerged into the light, when a farmer who was seeking to level the small bumpy area at the edge of his field. As he spread the disturbed soil across the field, a large quantity of bone, quern stones and other clearly archaeological objects appeared. The local archaeologist, the late George Eogan, was called in and immediately identified it as a highly significant monument. As Professor Eogan was already excavating the great tomb at Knowth at the time, and as he believed the site to have been largely destroyed already, he had his assistant, a young archaeologist by the name of John Bradley, to lead what was expected to be a short rescue and recovery project. Much more of the crannóg had survived than was originally thought. Between 1980 and 1998, fourteen seasons of excavation confirmed that this was an exceptional multi-period site with rich artefactual assemblages from multiple levels and phases.

Over the years, John produced a number of reports and published several articles about the findings at Moynagh Lough, but the main excavation report remains incomplete and unpublished. When John moved to Maynooth University from UCD in 1996 the Moynagh archive moved with him. After John Bradley’s sudden passing in 2014, a collaborative project led by Michael was formed to review the archive and to take Moynagh Lough through to publication. This was especially fitting, as Michael was a volunteer, then a supervisor and finally Assistant Director of the excavations in the 1990s.

In this discussion Michael tells us of the incredible multi-phase archaeology of Moynagh Lough from the Late Mesolithic to the early medieval period, and how this collaborative project seeks to bring the equally multi-phase project to completion. It is an in-depth chat, that highlights the amazing legacy of John Bradley, George Eogan and Heather King, who all played such an important role at Moynagh Lough. It also reinforces the importance of reappraising past excavations and the wealth of information that are contained within archives, and how multi-disciplinary, collaborative efforts can bring new techniques to shed light on past projects. And more than anything else, the discussion asks the critical question:

What does it all mean?



Title: Moynagh Lough

Duration: 1 hour 15 mins.

In this fascinating discussion with Dr Michael Potterton, we discuss the important legacy project of Moynagh Lough.

Moynagh Lough – Key Discussion Points

  • Where and what is Moynagh Lough – 2 min 15 secs
  • How Moynagh Lough was first discovered – 3 min 30 secs
  • The rediscovery of Moynagh Lough – 6 min 35 secs
  • The development of the project in the 1980s–1990s – 11 min 30 secs
  • The legacy of John Bradley and Michael’s experience working at Moynagh Lough – 15 min 10 secs
  • The chronology of the site – 23 min 25 secs
  • A discussion on crannógs – 31 min 07 secs
  • What sort of activity took place at the crannóg of Moynagh Lough – 36 min 32 secs
  • Do historical sources point toward who may have been living at Moynagh Lough? – 41 min 20 secs
  • The final excavation and how the new legacy project began – 43 mins 52 secs
  • What sort of specialist analysis is involved in this phase? – 48 min 42 secs
  • Does Michael have a particular favourite moment from his experience on the site? – 59 min 23 secs
  • Based on the evidence so far, what can Moynagh Lough tell us about life in Early Medieval Ireland? – 1 hour 3 mins 00 secs
  • What is the future for Moynagh Lough? – 1 hour 8 min 15 secs
  • Could there ever be more excavations at Moynagh Lough? – 1 hour 11 min 10 secs

Show notes and links to further information

  • You can see a fantastic illustrated talk by Michael for the Royal Society of Antiquaries here.
  • Michael is a prolific writer on Ireland. I highly recommend his books like Uncovering Medieval Trim, and his co-edited chronological series with Christiaan Corlett that showcases what recent excavations can tell us about some of they key periods in Irish Archaeology. Like The Town in Medieval Ireland: In Light of Recent Archaeological Excavations. You can find a full list of his publications here
  • Please do leave us a review if you can, or share the episode using the podcast #AmplifyArchaeology – it really does help us out so I’d be very grateful.
  • If you’d like to dig deeper into the stories of Ireland you’ll love our new membership service Tuatha. Online courses, places to visit, itineraries for great days out and more! Sign up here.
  • You can also sign up for our free email newsletter – Monument Monday! Every Monday we send out a mail featuring one of Ireland’s wonderful heritage sites. Guarantee yourself at least one nice mail every Monday morning by signing up here.

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