The Dún Beag Promontory Fort

The most significant relics from the Iron Age are promontory (sea facing) and hill forts. These are usually monuments with a large stone wall enclosing a considerable area of hilltop or cliff ledge. On the whole they were built as defensive structures, but often a refuge of last resort, during an invasion.

Dún Beag fort is a small but an impressive and elabourate example of a promontory fort and its location makes it one of the most dramatic archaeological sites on the Dingle Peninsula. Built on a sheer cliff which projects South into Dingle Bay at the base of Mount Eagle, it’s extensive archelogical excavation was undertaken in the late 1970’s. There was two major phases of occupation recorded by the archaeologists.

The first phase was around the 8th and 9th centuries AD and was centred around a small hearth fire close to the South Wall. Clusters of stake holes to the North and South indicated the presence of wooden tripods for supporting pots and skins over the fire. Analysis of the occupation debris suggests a diet mainly of pigs, sheep and goats with some cows.

The second phase of occupation lay 0.18 to 3 metres above the first phase and was around the 10th and 11th Centuries AD. It was concentrated on two hearths in the centre of the Beehive. The bones of sheep, pig, deer, birds and fish were also recorded.

But the excavation results did not reveal conclusively what the site was used for; it may have been defensive, or used for ritual or even status purposes to show the wealth of a tribe, or it may simply have just been lived in.

Dún Beag Fort – Defensive Features / Structure

The defensive structure of Dunbeg Fort consists of four lines of banks, five fosses (dips inbetween the banks) and an inner drystone rampart (the main building wall) with a complex enterance flanked by two guardchambers. A souterrain (underground tunnel) extends under the building from the enterance of the main building and in the interior of the fort is a single large clochaun (Beehive) which has a lintelled doorway with two draw-bar holes.

A stone flagged pathway leads from the enterance in the rampart to a Beehive in the interior of the fort. It partly overlies a stone-lined drain which runs along the outside of the Beehive to the cliff edge.

The earlist feature revealed by the excavation was a wattle fence along the whole length of  the ditch. A charcoal layer immediately under the top soil may have resulted from the burning of this, it produced a radiocarbon date of around 580 BC. Suggesting a much earlier periods of activity at this site in the late Bronze Age.