Parks and Deer-Hunting: Evidence from Medieval Ireland
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This thesis examines aspects of hunting in later medieval Ireland, with particular reference to the Anglo-Norman period, from 1169 to c. 1350. The focus is on deer hunting and on parks, in which fallow deer could be kept. To date no detailed study of hunting in high medieval Ireland has been carried out, and as a result the study uses an interdisciplinary approach in order to maximise the scope of coverage. The aim of this thesis is to understand how parks and deer hunting were used to create and maintain identities, and how these functioned as a form of social and cultural expression in high medieval Ireland. Deer hunting was central to elite society, having symbolic significance, as well as developing military skills and forging social bonds. Fallow deer were unusual, but not rare in later medieval Ireland. They were limited to the east of the country and to the highest tier of Anglo-Norman lordly society, being relatively common finds from castle excavations. Notably, the evidence suggests that the bones of all species of wild mammals are much less frequently found on Irish castle sites than on English elite sites. The study identifies thirty-nine documented high medieval parks, and includes detailed examination of five of these. All thirty-nine were in Anglo-Norman areas, with no high medieval parks found in Gaelic Ireland. Today, the parks have been forgotten, however survey has shown that physical features do survive at the sites of many of those surveyed. Parks were integral to Anglo-Norman identity, being used to create a sense of place and familiarity in a foreign land. Unlike England, however, they did not become widespread, and few were stocked with deer.