Notre Dame archaeologists unearth “lost” famine village on Galway island

The beautiful historic island of Inishbofin, off the Galway coast

Archaeologists from the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, have unearthed part of a “lost” famine village, known as “Poirtins”, on the island of Inishbofin, of the Galway coast.

A team of ten archaeologists have spent a month working on the island. Their focus has been on 14 hours at the southeast corner of “Poirtins”,  named after a little port, the Irish Times reports.

Connemara historian and archaeologist Michael Gibbons paid tribute to the American team’s work and says that their discovery and said it is new to archaeology.

The experts believe that up to 100 people inhabited the village, made up of large, long, single-storey thatched house. They also found porcelain on the site. The structure of the buildings also shows that these homes were “successful residents” for the time, according to Dr Ian Kuijt, professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, who led the project with his wife Meredith Chesson.

Gibbons told the Times, “The monumental type of architecture was unusual, and the settlement was not marked on the 1776 map of Inishbofin which shows houses further to the north.”

The Notre Dame team believe that the settlement was just 20 or 30 years old before it was abandoned.

Kuijt said the downturn in fishing, or the tenant farmers could have been factors in its demise. However, another theory is that at this time 1822 the population was struck by a famine. In the local cemetery there is a memorial slab dedicated to a priest who ministered to people dying of starvation and fever at that time. The stone from the buildings was taken and used for road building and other relief work elsewhere.

The Indiana group has been working on Inishbofin and Inishark since 2006, part of a project on cultural landscapes on the Irish coast.

COMMENTS