Reask is an Early Medieval ecclesiastical site on the Dingle Peninsula close to the village of Ballyferriter and overlooking Smerwick Harbour.The site consists of an enclosure marked by a substantial wall. The site was excavated in the 1970s by Tom Fanning. Within the enclosure the excavation uncovered several clochans, an oratory, burials and several cross slabs. The site apppears demarcated with an eastern area associated with the ecclesiastical buildings separated by an internal dividing wall from the domestic buildings in the western part of the enclosure .Whilst Reask is an ecclesiastical site it could be classified as a form of settlement cemetery in that the living quarters and burials are in close proximity.

The excavation at Reask produced evidence for two major phases of occupation where initial organic built structures were replaced by stone buildings. There has been debate recently on the links and possible influences from the Mediterranean on the development of Early Medieval monasteries in Ireland. Sherds of Late Roman Amphorae (B ware) which can be dated to the 5th and 6th century were discovered during the excavations at Reask. The B ware pottery from Reask though was associated with a small cemetery of lintel graves. The context suggested that it may predate the construction of the oratory and underlay the oratory walls.

Further evidence of foreign trade, some sherds of E-ware pottery which dates from the 6th to the 8th century were also recovered. E-ware is thought to have originated in northwest Gaul. A fragment of a glass bowl was also found. Evidence was found for both iron working (iron slag) and bronze working on the site. It is thought that this evidence supports the theory that many early ecclesiastical settlements were emerging economic centres for local society.

There is a ringfort quite close to the monastic site and also some clochans. Further up the hill side is another enclosure which could also be an ecclesiastical site.


  • Cuppage et al, 1986 The Archaeological Survey of the Dingle Peninsula.
  • Fanning, T. 1981 Excavations of an early Christian cemetery and settlement at Reask, Co. Kerry. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 81C, 67–172.
  • Kelly, A. 2009 The discovery of Phocaean Red Slip Ware (PRSW) Form 3 and Bii ware (LR1 amphorae) on sites in Ireland—an analysis within a broader framework. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, Section C, 35-88.
  • O'Sullivan, A, F. McCormick, T. Kerr and L. Harney. 2008 Early Medieval Ireland: Archaeological Excavations 1930-2004. The Heritage Council.

reask Oratory Inscribed stone at Reask Inscribed stone at Reask
Remains of a clochan Reask Remains of a clochan Reask Remains of a clochan Reask

Site Location

  • SMR Number: KE042-060001
  • Class: Ecclesiastical Enclosure
  • National Grid Reference (E,N): 36685, 104361
  • Townland(s): REASK
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Last Updated , Jan 2010 15:17  
Copyright © 2010 Mick Mongey
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