Iron Age questions

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Iron Age questions

Postby EmilyR on Sun Sep 13, 2009 8:22 pm

Hi everyone –- I finally have a long enough list of Iron Age questions to hopefully justify a post. I would be very grateful for any and all help!

Travel lodging: For those able to travel long distances, where could they have spent the night? I came across discussions of medieval hostels while reading about ancient roads, and found references to hostels in the pre-Christian legends, but I wasn’t sure whether the word choice in the legends might reflect the period in which they were written down. Would the brewy from the early laws have been the same as a hostel? Also, is anything known about the way the sleeping arrangements might have been laid out in a place offering hospitality to travelers (and if not, what would be your guess)?

Travel/horses: For a journey lasting several days, would a person have been more likely to walk, ride, or use a cart/chariot? Would it depend on the profession or social class?

Food: I found references to corn in several books, and when I looked it up online, found sites stating that the word “corn” referred/refers to a different crop in Ireland (oats) than in America. I thought I should double check –- is that right?

Drinking water: Would rain barrels have been the primary source for drinking/cooking, or would a spring have been used? Could wells have been used in this period as well?

Thank you in advance!!
Emily
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Re: Iron Age questions

Postby brendan on Sun Sep 13, 2009 9:23 pm

Some partial answers:
- Early Irish Law suggests that a freeman/land owner who offered hospitality could as much as double his status/honour price by offering hospitality. The more central the location the greater the honour. This is certain for post Iron Age, but I am not sure how far back it goes. These people were referred to by a title Briugu (sp?) which can translate as something like hostel owner...that is one option
-As someone from outside the locality was a foreigner and therefore devoid of rights it was probably common enough for people to travel with a priest - in the Christian era anyway - maybe something similar in the pre-christian era?
-For long journeys they were more likely to go by boat - due to wooded nature of the country it was quicker by sea to get from modern limerick to dublin (for instance).
I cant remember the full details on the corn one but yes, corn is the more general term. For very detailed information on farming (including fines for damaging animals!) have a look at Early Irish Farming by Fergus Kelly. I am pretty sure that there is a lot of stuff in there about what people drank and the regulations covering same (My copy is currently in a box in a pile of boxes)

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Re: Iron Age questions

Postby the_power on Sun Sep 13, 2009 10:36 pm

People outside the locality could only cross if they were clerics, or nobles from a tuath that had good relations with the local king. You could argue that a druid might have had similar rights in pre-christian times. When people say "corn" they actually mean anything that can be ground on a quern stone. In Ireland, it could be wheat, barley, rye, spelt, or oats. "Early Irish Farming" details this.

It's possible people stored water in troughs for animal use. It certainly was done by more contemporary pre-metalworking cultures (in a smaller scale, with gourds, coconuts, etc.)

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Re: Iron Age questions

Postby Dave Mooney on Tue Sep 29, 2009 10:07 am

Hi Emily,

Food: I found references to corn in several books, and when I looked it up online, found sites stating that the word “corn” referred/refers to a different crop in Ireland (oats) than in America. I thought I should double check –- is that right?


For 'Corn' read, and substitute with, 'Grain'.

In the Medieval to Post Medieval the term was understood at a local level as a given grain (Wheat, Barley, Oats etc) and there were 'Corn Laws' governing grains for taxation reasons with centralised 'Corn' drying kilns and mills. Brining your grain to the one designated guy meant he could measure it and extract a tax from it for those that be. In 16th Century Scotland it meant Oats only.
'Corn' was largely used as a generic for grains up until recent times. Then, and even now with some older people in Ireland, in means 'flour'. (Not to be confused with actual 'Corn Flour'!)

When European settlers went to the Americas they observed the Native population making bread with Sweet Corn/Maize, like they did with their corn (wheat/barley) and called it 'Indian corn'. The 'Indian' got dropped and now we all call maize 'Corn', 'Corn on the Cob' or 'Sweet Corn'.

I've had Americans try tell me that 'Corn' is the American Plant and 'Maize' is the African, which is smaller. The etnobiology of the plant is that it is indigenous to Mesoamerica and that it evolved from a plant in Mexico and there are, like with all plants, variations of it big and small. It moved from the States to the rest of the world like every other useful plant we ever migrated with us (Wheat's, Rice, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Courgettes/Zucchini) .

We did not have the plant known as corn/maize here until recent times. I wouldn't use the word 'Corn' in your books as it will just confuse. It's one of those terms we need to pull out of our terminology when talking about grains, save only to reference its usage.

Dave.
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Re: Iron Age questions

Postby Dave Mooney on Tue Sep 29, 2009 10:32 am

Travel/horses: For a journey lasting several days, would a person have been more likely to walk, ride, or use a cart/chariot? Would it depend on the profession or social class?


Walking or boat via river or sea would have been the bast way of moving about in the Iron Age. It was quicker to get to a coast and sail up the country than it was to traverse it.
We had limited roads here then, probably some on a local level but I doubt they joined towns together. Recognised paths or routes would be used.
Carts were probably used for carrying heavy loads over short distances.
Chariots could only really be used on open ground. They seemed to have big wheels though to handle the rough ground. I'd see them pulled empty or carried in parts and assembled at the location of given battle or event.

I think the only roads found seem dead straight, link religious or political sites, or lead up to them, Or traverse bog land. These bog roads were most likely built to aid in the extraction of iron ore from under the bog. (Our early iron came from under the bog...oh, and the turf cut in the mining process could be dried and used as the fuel to heat and extract the Iron.) Check out Corlea Bog Tracks http://www.excavations.ie/Pages/Details ... rd&id=3698 . There were 108 roads found in the Corlea zone and 78 found in the outlying bogs. Had to be industrial.

Anyone else got stuff on roads and travel?

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Re: Iron Age questions

Postby EmilyR on Thu Oct 22, 2009 5:13 am

Dave, Brendan and John, thank you so much! I'm sorry for not responding sooner.

This is a huge help. I requested Early Irish Farming from my library, and the information on the Corlea Bog Tracks is wonderful.

Thank you!!
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