The aim of this project was to investigate a possible early medieval trade network in high status stone for Irish High Crosses in the kingdom of Brega in north Leinster, and consideration of how such trade informs our understanding of the relationship between ecclesiastical settlements, natural resources and cultural identity. The objectives of the project were to identify the source of the stone, to plot the distribution of the original quarry and the ecclesiastical sites where it was used, and to critically evaluate the archaeological implications of this information and how it can contribute to our understanding of masons and decorative stonework in early medieval Ireland. The study used NDT techniques to characterise both the stone and weathering processes of sculptural and decorative architectural stonework. Potential quarry sources and rock outcrops across the kingdom of Brega were visited, sampled and analysed using petrographic and geochemical analytical techniques.
Unlike the high medieval period with the arrival of the continental orders and the Anglo-Normans, there are only scant references to building in stone during early medieval Ireland, and a there was a very different approach to obtaining and building in stone to that found in the later medieval period.
The project was supported by the Royal Irish Academy through the Archaeological Research Fund 2007.