Irish Dark Age

The Irish Dark Age refers to a period of apparent economic and cultural stagnation in late prehistoric Ireland, lasting from c. 100 BC to c. 300 AD.

The phrase was coined by Thomas Charles-Edwards to describe a gap in the archaeological record coinciding with the Roman Empire in Britain and continental Europe.[1] Charles-Edwards notes the lack of continuity between Ptolemy's writings on the peoples of second-century Ireland and writings in ogham in the fifth century.[2] Pollen data extracted from Irish bogs indicates a decrease in human impact on plant life in the bogs in the third century.[3] Charles-Edwards has suggested that the decrease in agricultural productivity might be due to a large-scale export of slaves to Roman Britain.[4]

Others such as Joseph Raftery, Barry Raftery, and Donnchadh Ó Corráin have drawn attention to a decline in human settlement and activity in Ireland, starting from around the first century BC.[5][6][7]


  1. ^ Thomas Charles-Edwards (2000) Early Christian Ireland, p. 145
  2. ^ Charles-Edwards (2000), p. 152
  3. ^ Charles-Edwards (2000), p. 148
  4. ^ Charles-Edwards (2000), pp. 153–4
  5. ^ Joseph Raftery, "Iron Age and Irish sea: problems for research", in The Iron Age in the Irish Sea province, Cardiff, 1972, p. ?
  6. ^ Barry Raftery, Pagan Celtic Ireland: The Enigma of the Irish Iron Age, London, 1994
  7. ^ Donnchadh Ó Corráin, "Celtic problems in the Irish Iron Age", in Irish antiquity: Essays in memory of M.V. Duignan, 1979, p. 211

Further readingEdit

  • "A note on climatic deterioration in the first millennium BC in Britain", Stuart Piggot, Scottish Archaeological Forum, iv, 1972, pp. 109–113
  • "The Greek geographic tradition and Ptolemy's evidence for Irish geography", J.J. Tierney in Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, lxxvii, 1976, pp. 257–65
  • "Dark Ages and the Pollen Record", D.A. Weir, Emania 11, 1993, pp. 21–30
  • "Dark Ages and Dendrochronology", Mike Baillie, Emania 11, 1993, pp. 5–12
  • "Cows, Ringforts and the Origins of Early Christian Ireland", F. McCormick, Emania 13, 1995, pp. 33–37
  • "Iron-age Ireland", Barry Raftery in A New History of Ireland volume one, 2008, pp. 134–181