A cloud of mystery looms over the ringforts that speckle the countryside of Ireland. More than 45,000 ringforts have been documented throughout Northern Europe and yet little is known about the date, occupancy, and function of these structures. Perhaps this mystery persists due to the mythology surrounding them; that they exist as the gate way to the realm of the fairies and are protected pieces of Irish history that few dare to disturb. Accounts of missing livestock, trances, death, and other misfortune have kept the fairy forts protected for many years. However, a few brave historians and archaeologists are beginning to peel back the curtain and search for answers regarding these ancient structures.
A ringfort is a general term for a circular space, which could sometimes be raised above the surrounding ground, and in other cases could be surrounded by a shallow ditch as a demarcation. The “ring” of the ringforts was a boundary which encompassed the dwelling or group of dwelling within. The ditch that surrounded the fort would have been fortified by a palisade of timber, a hedge, or a thick growth or trees and shrubs. While the average ringfort tends to be around 27-30 meters in diameter internally, they have been found to be as large as 75 meters in diameter externally. The size of the ringfort, some have claimed, is directly linked to the occupancy of the dwelling. The large ringforts would have housed those in a higher class of society while a cluster of smaller forts would have grown around the larger fort.
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