Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Historical Archaeology

First Advisor

Stephen W. Silliman

Second Advisor

Stephen Mrozowski

Third Advisor

Ian Kuijt


During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Ireland was a country of instability. The population rose rapidly, and traditional farming practices shifted to accommodate the rapidly changing population in addition to incorporating and almost entirely depending on a new crop, the potato. A spattering of famine years culminating in the Great Famine of 1847-1850 created an unstable environment for rural Irish farmers and factored into massive depopulation of the western counties. Abandonment of the western counties created dozens of empty villages across the landscape, the majority of which are comprised of stone structures located in farmland and in varying degrees of preservation. This thesis examines the impact of political and social change on spatial organization during the second half of the nineteenth century at a one such village at Streamstown, Co. Galway.

This investigation aims to 1) establish that houses are important representations of social identity and indicators of community organization, 2) investigate the nature of vernacular architecture and rebuilding and reuse of structures, and 3) examine the role of architecture and community organization in the nature of gradual village abandonment and seek broader implications for archaeological studies of abandonment. It examines these changes in the context of national mandates concerning farming practices and lifeways and the implementation of these mandates on a local and individual scale. It further examines the complex processes of community abandonment, continued use of structures post-abandonment, and the practices of rebuilding and reuse that characterize many of the vernacular structures in this area. Changing spatial organization and modifications in vernacular architecture reflects shifting practices of land use and modifications of traditional systems to cope with the shifting social environment and a decreasing labor force. This change is considered on the individual, community, and national scale.