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The Dúns of Aran:

 Dúnta Árainn


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As a young teenager in the 1970's I visited the Aran Islands for the first time during Summer holidays with my family. We spent four weeks on Inis Mór the first year and travelled again the following two Summers. These holidays obviously made an impression on me as I continued to visit in subsequent years, bringing my own children when the time came. I remember visitng these old Dúns and wondering who built them and why. The story that we were told then was that they were built on the clifftop as a defensive measure against attack. We accepted this and thought no more about it.


I have always had an interest in history and enjoyed visiting Aran for its mysterious and fascinating landscape with historic monuments around every corner. The islands also constitute one of the last bastions of Gaelic culture and are a peaceful and beautiful place to visit.

Sometime early in 2007 I watched a documentary program about flooding in England in the 17th century which was being reassessed in light of modern knowledge as a possible Tsunami. This was about two years after the Dec 26th 2004 Tsunami in Thailand when the reality of Tsunamis entered peoples consciousness for the first time. The program makers speculated as to the possible cause of the English Tsunami and suggested a faultline somewhere off the southwest of Ireland as an area of geological unstability albeit was inactive for a long time. I started to wonder what would happen if such a wave were to originate off the south or west coast of Ireland and what damage it might do. For some reason I immediately thought of the Aran Islands. That is when I first considered Dún Aengus on Inis Mór as being a shelter against these sort of waves.

It was this thought that led me to research the idea and this website is the result of my investigations. Whatever the verdict on it's contents, I do believe there is alot to be discovered about these monuments and about the west coast of Ireland in general. What, for example, is the reason for the stony barren land up an down the West of Ireland? What happened to the Burren to cause it to lose it's soil when pollen samples suggest it was once densely forested? Why are so many townlands prefixed by the term Doire , meaning wood, when there isn't a tree to be seen anywhere in the area? That last question was posed by Bob Quinn in his excellent book The Atlantean Irish and it begs an answer. Too often we accept what we are told without asking any questions.

The biggest hurdle I had to overcome in trying to explain how the Dúns might have been wave shelters was to answer how the waves and sea-level could reach the massive heights to surmount the 85m cliffs we see in Aran today. When I read the theory of Isostasy I realised how this could be possible. Isostasy explains how the land of Europe and Ireland would have been depressed under the weight of Ice sheets for thousands of years. Therefore when the ice began to melt and sea-levels rose, the land of Aran and the west coast was perhaps 100m lower than it is today and very susceptible to rising sea water. It was at this time I believe the Dúns were built. This would date the Dúns, at a guess, about eight or nine thousand years old assuming the ice sheets began receding 10,000 years ago.

I leave it to yourselves to weigh up the evidence. Whatever your opinions I would like to hear them. Please feel free to mail me at the link below:

Contact me : Ciarán Benville, Ireland, Dec 2008.

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