A social archaeology of Anglo-Norman Cork
Gleeson, Caitríona M.
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The Anglo-Norman occupation of Cork permanently altered the physical and societal landscape of the city, and its immediate surrounding area. Over the course of nearly a century and a half, a small but functioning harbour became the premier Anglo-Norman port on the south-west coast of Ireland, and the earlier settlement transitioned from a small Hiberno-Norse trading community and nearby monastic nucleus into a socially- and architecturally-diverse urban centre. This process of urbanisation was a deliberate action on the part of the Anglo-Normans to 'civilise' their new colony in the late 12th century, and by the late 13th and early 14th centuries, the thriving town of Cork was a testament to the successful realisation of this goal. There has been extensive archaeological investigation within the city, which has uncovered significant evidence of Cork's urban medieval development. To date, the results of these excavations have not been academically assessed as a compound entity. This study is the first attempt to establish a cohesive archaeological and historical understanding of the impact of Anglo-Norman occupation on the social morphology of Cork's earliest urban inhabitants. It is, effectively, the first integrated interpretation of all available archaeological data from the Anglo-Norman period in Cork. Using an approach which integrates historical and archaeological evidence to define exact temporal parameters, the present writer has interrogated all available excavation data as part of a high-resolution study of the social archaeology of Anglo-Norman Cork. This has resulted in a new understanding of some long-held perceptions of the period between c.1171 and c.1315 in the city. This research has challenged previous historical interpretations of the impact of the Anglo-Norman occupation on the existing Hiberno-Norse inhabitants, and re-defined their role as useful participants in the economy of the Anglo-Norman city. Evidence of at least four social strata within the town has been identified, and new information on the quality of life enjoyed by the lower-ranking craft-workers and artisans of the period is put forward. Phases of economic migration within the city have been recognised, as has physical evidence of the elite members of society at this time. Life-ways, both individual and familial, have been deciphered from the data in order to enrich, and personalise, this account of the social archaeology of Anglo-Norman Cork.
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