What is a midden?

prehistoric midden of shells in the swamp Vilseskogen via Compfight

There is evidence of people living at Rathdown during the Neolithic or New Stone Age (2,500 BC). In March 1991 part of the cliff at North Beach, Greystones adjacent to Rathdown collapsed into the sea. A newspaper report of the time explains that Grove Residents Association salvaged the find.

‘The items which they recovered over the Easter holidays include a number of fine Neolithic flints, several shards of medieval pottery, some animal bones and teeth, medieval nails and a piece of buckle’ (1) 

The haul provided evidence that there was habitation at Rathdown from prehistoric to medieval times.

‘In March 1991, after a period of prolonged rainfall a large section of cliff collapsed just north of the Gap Bridge revealing a midden site.’(2)

The students are very taken with the word ‘midden’ (an old Norse word) and are initially disappointed to hear that a midden is the equivalent of a rubbish dump. But their interest is renewed when they learn of discoveries archaeologists make, about the type of food our ancestors ate by examining these dumping grounds.

Mollusks formed a significant addition to the diet of those living along the coast in prehistoric times. The children speculate from what they see on Greystones sea shore today that the shells found in the midden could have included oysters, cockles, mussels, limpets, whelks, periwinkles, crab claws and fish bones. The chemical composition of the shells slow down the rate of decay within the midden which in turn preserve other materials in the heap.

 

1. George Jacob ‘Historic find as section of cliff collapses,’ Bray People, April 1991

2. Patrick Neary ‘A Saddle Quern or Grinding Stone from Rathdown Lower, Co.Wicklow https://trowelucd.files.wordpress.com/1992/10/trowel_iii.pdf

What does siege mean?

170/365: Meeple Siege Guido Gloor Modjib via Compfight

When a group of people, an army perhaps surround

and attack a place; a town, a city, a fortified place

so that the people there cannot get help or food,

this is called a siege.

 

A siege can last for days, weeks, months or years.

The aim of a siege is to weaken the people that are inside

so that the people who are outside can beat them

and win the battle.

 

The people inside, try to stay strong and wait for rescue.

 

Kimberley Road in Greystones is named after a famous siege;

the Siege of Kimberley.

You can read more about this HERE

What are crop marks?

When places where people once lived are deserted,

they become overgrown.

RuinsCreative Commons License Mark Coleman via Compfight

Eventually they are buried.

What is underneath the soil

can affect how the crops above them grow.

Ditches dug into the ground fill up with soil over time.

Crops grow well in these place.

They grow higher and look greener.

These create ‘positive’ cropmarks.

 

Where there are walls, floors or foundations underneath,

there is a thinner layer of soil.

Crops don’t grow as well on top of this rubble.

This creates ‘negative’ cropmarks.

Positive and negative cropmarks can be seen best from the air.

RHB_UK_Harnhill-1672_LabelledCreative Commons License DART Project via Compfight

Please note this is not a photo of Rathdown
and is only here to show ‘cropmarks’ in the landscape.

Click on this LINK to read more about cropmarks.

Photographs of cropmarks taken from the air, in 1970

show that there was early settlement at Rathdown, to the North of Greystones.

You can read more about those photographs HERE