Archaeologists say a coastal part of West Cork was a thriving international trading hub in the 16th century. Excavations in the area have unearthed a wide range of pottery from as far away as China, Germany, and Italy.
The shards of pottery, some of which came from France, Spain, Holland, Denmark, and Belgium, were discovered close to the Franciscan Friary on Sherkin Island. What stunned archaeologists was the quantity and range of exotic pottery from the site. These ceramics, dating mostly from the 16th and 17th centuries, include high-status tableware, as well as more utilitarian vessels such as olive jars.
The excavation team was led by archaeologist Ann Lynch, under the auspices of the National Monuments Service. “We excavated inside the friary and immediately to its west. It was to the west that we found an incredible amount of exotic material,” said Dr Lynch.
Although the Sherkin/Baltimore area was a known haunt of pirates at the time, Dr Lynch said she believes the ceramics also came into the area as a result of trading.“It was a huge trading area with ships coming into Baltimore and Skibbereen on a regular basis from France and Spain,” she said. “There was also a huge fishing fleet offloading its catch at Sherkin Island.”