Friday, 30 September 2016

Food and feasting at Tara

Image from Tara: the guidebook (Discovery Programme)
Tomorrow morning, I will lead a group of around 100 UCD School of Archaeology undergraduate students on a fieldtrip to the Hill of Tara, Co. Meath. Tara is one of the best known archaeological landscapes in Ireland, with extensive and hugely impressive monuments -- including burials, assembly places and settlements --  that reflect millennia of activity here.

We will investigate several different monuments here, looking at their construction, how they were used, how they appear now, and how they might benefit from further investigation. Students will learn how to draw plans and profiles of monuments, and we will consider how best to present the extraordinary archaeology of Tara to the public.

During the fieldtrip, I am particularly looking forward to thinking in more detail about the role of food and feasting at Tara. Food can be an important element in many ceremonies, including burials, when food can be consumed by the living to commemorate the dead, and can be placed with the dead to accompany them on their journey. Food can also play a hugely important role in creating social bonds across society. The 'Banqueting Hall' at Tara may have been constructed during the prehistoric period as a place of assembly or passage, but it is during the early historic period that this is reputed to be a great banquet hall. Important feasts were said to be held here, including the festival of Samhain. Food is therefore central to many activities at Tara over the years, and I'm looking forward to investigating it all with the students tomorrow.

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