The Corlea, Co. Longford Iron Age Trackway

The Corlea, Co. Longford trackway was the first Iron Age road ever found in Ireland.

Image from Frank Mitchell and Michael Ryan 1997. Reading the Irish Landscape. Dublin.

A “Danes Road” had been known about by the local turf-cutters at Corlea, Co. Longford for generations as they had uncovered massive oak timbers while digging for turf by hand. Then in 1984 very large split oak planks were exposed in the face of a bog at Cloonbreany townland. Gabriel Cooney of University College Dublin investigated the trackway in the summer of 1984 and traced them across the neighbouring Bord na Mona bog. Samples from the trackway were taken by Hilda Parkes and Richard Bradshaw of Trinity College and sent to Queens University Belfast for dendrochronological dating by Prof. Mike Bailey. Analysis of the samples and comparison with the master chronology developed at Queens indicated that the trackway timbers had been cut in the year 148 BC. Corlea was therefore the first bog trackway ever dated to the Iron Age in Ireland.

As the trackway was in danger of being milled by Bord na Mona Dr. Barry Raftery of University College Dublin was requested by the Office of Public Works to carry out a rescue excavation of the trackway in 1985. The investigation of the Corlea trackway lasted until 1991 and the track was found to have extended for more than 1km across the townlands of Corlea and Cloonbreany linking a small island of dry soil to the dryland to the east. The trackway consisted of runners that supported wedge-split oak sleepers that formed a roadway 3-4m. In the course of the work at Corlea many more trackways were indentified in the vicinity and investigated.

Further Reading
Barry Raftery 1996. Trackway Excavations in the Mountdillon Bogs, Co. Longford, 1985-91. Dublin.

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