Friday, 14 March 2014

Toberdaly Yoke

My reconstruction of the Toberdaly yoke, This yoke was  found in Ballybeg bog, near Croghan Hill in co. Offaly. Its been dated to about  889-543 cal. BC which is late Bronze Age to early Iron Age. Before I go into it, I should start off by saying Im indebted to Charles Mount for pointing me towards this particular artefact and also finding me a great article in Archaeology Ireland about it. And I'm equalled indebted to Cathy Moore and Conor McDermott whom supplied lots of other articles about this particular yoke and other yokes found in Ireland and Britain, as well as some great reference that I could use, thanks guys!

Back to the yoke, only one part of the yoke was found, which was one of the collars. But the other collar and the central section were missing. So I had to look at other yokes found in Ireland, like the Lisbellaw and Enniskellen yoke, and I tried to adapt their design to the general design of the Toberdaly yoke. Part of the leather harness was still on the yoke when found, specifically the leather strap you see on the right side of the yoke that is tied with a wooden peg and straps around from the outside to the inside of the collar itself. But the rest of the harness I had to guess at, specifically the parts that strap the yoke to the cattle and plough. Not sure how accurate this would be but I did my best while looking at harnesses for animals usually and thinking about they might work with the yoke.

The yoke was found to be made of Ash, which is a strong, elastic and shock resistant wood, and was still being used for yokes in the early medieval period. The yoke is what is called a withers yoke, which is one of two types used in early medieval Ireland and before, the other is a head yoke, which is attached to the head or horns, while wither yokes are instead attached around the neck.

There has been sixteen yokes in total found in Ireland, which are assigned to the Iron Age and early medieval period. I love the way in the legal tracts of early medieval Ireland, there is no responsibility for injuries inflicted by yoked oxen or cattle and no claims can be made, seems even back in those days we were trying to sue each other!  A cattle horn was found nearby too, and thought to be contemporary with the yoke, so quite possible it belonged to the cattle that drove this yoke.


1. Throwing off the yoke-Michael Stanley, Conor McDermott, Cathy Moore and Cara Murray- Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 17, No. 2 (Summer, 2003), pp. 6-8
2. Of Bogs, Boats and Bows- Irish Archaeological Wetland Unit Survey 2001-Conor McDermott, Cara Murray, Gill Plunkett and Michael Stanley-Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring, 2002), pp. 28-31
3.  Masters of their craft: worked wood from Annaholty, Co. Tipperary
4.  Report on the Archaeological Excavation of Merrywell, Co. Meath from Mr Clonee- North of Kells, January 2009
5. A social History of Ancient Ireland- PW Joyce
6.  Irish Archaeological Wetland Unit Peatland Survey 2001- Supplementary Archaeological Survey Report
7. Early Yoke Types in Britain-Alexander Fenton- The shape of the Past 2- Essays in Scottish Ethnology

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