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What's in a Name. 5.
The word "Souterrain" is derived from the French, and means "under the ground". In Archaeological talk Souterrain is used to refer to an underground tunnel or passage, found often within or near a Ring Fort, or other enclosure.
Although we don't know precisely what they were used for, it is usually assumed that they served as storage for food and valuables and/or a refuge for people under attack.
They are often high enough for a person to walk in, or crouch in, often have several chambers and interconnecting passages, and are sometimes elaborately constructed with cut stone walls or ceilings.
Dating is difficult in most cases, but at least some of them must have been constructed when the enclosure was built. Early Christian Enclosures often contain a Souterrain, but then so do earlier Iron Age Ringforts.
We have all heard stories of underground passages connecting up two Ringforts, but these usually are fictional, particularly around here where stone close to the surface makes this an impossible task.
A large number of Ringforts and other Enclosures in Uibh Laoghaire contain a Souterrain. It is so frequent that sometimes we discover that there was once a Rath in a field because we find the Souterrain. This happened for example in Kilmore where the finding of the Souterrain in Fionn Cotters field led to the discovery of the Early Christian Enclosure, and probably the site of the Great Church (Cill mor) of St.Ronan.
The Cork Survey lists 7 Souterrains in our Parish including Cahernacaha, Carrignadoura, Coolnacrannagh, Derryleigh, Rathgaskeeg (Cashel), and Rathgaskeeg (Rath), There are also possible traces of a Souterrain at Dooneens, I expect some of our readers will be able to tell us of others which they know about but which were not spotted by the Survey.