The use of trees and woodland in early medieval Ireland.

  • Aidan O'Sullivan Research Archaeologist, The Discovery Programme, 13-15 Lr. Hatch St., Dublin 2.
Keywords: Medieval woodlands, forest history, landscape, forest products, timber use, archaeology, economics, pollen analysis, dendrochronology.


Trees and woodland are peripheral to the main concerns of medieval historical studies today. However, the importance of woodlands resources as an aspect of a complex economy in both rural and urban landscapes needs to be assessed. A reconstruction of the role of woodland in early medieval Ireland can best be carried out through a combination of historical, archaeological and dendrochronological evidence. Although pollen evidence indicates large scale clearance in woodland cover between the fifth and eight centuries A.D., placename and literary evidence provides a picture of extensive woodland cover. Cartographic evidence of the extent of woodland is also conflicting. The role of woodland as a valuable economic resource which could be owned, exchanged or managed in a variety of ways can be studied in the historical annals, saints' lives and early Irish law-texts. The exploitation of woodlands for pannage and wood-pasture and as a source of fruit and nuts, and the use of timber for underwood in building construction are examined. Another important use of woodland involved the growth, felling and conversion of large trees into timbers for making houses, trackways, waterfronts, watermills and a variety of other structures. The use of timber in the river waterfronts in early medieval Dublin is discussed in detail...
How to Cite
O’Sullivan, A. (1994) “The use of trees and woodland in early medieval Ireland.”, Irish Forestry. Available at: (Accessed: 21June2024).