Landscape prominence: Examining the topographical position of Irish hillforts using a cumulative viewshed approach

James O'Driscoll

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


The European Bronze Age is often considered to have seen a dramatic increase in the exploitation of natural resources, maximisation of agricultural productivity and competition over trade routes, in order to facilitate a burgeoning prestige goods market. In Ireland, this can be linked with elite elements of ranked society and the construction of hillforts. These monuments were a central focus in the landscape and a symbol of an elite's power and authority. They may also have represented an elite's ability to trade high-status goods and as such, were essential in attracting traders. Therefore, it would have been essential to construct a hillfort in a prominent or strategic location. This interpretation is supported by the position of some hillforts overlooking distinct natural routeways. However, in situations where topographical variance is less defined, such as on escarpments or more open landscapes, it is difficult to define whether a monument is ‘strategically’ placed or ‘prominent’ in the landscape, and the use of these terms become subjective. In this regard, the use of cumulative viewshed analysis can help to quantitatively define the locational element of a hillfort. The examples described in this paper suggest that some hillforts were deliberately positioned in the most prominent parts of their respective regions, reflecting an innate knowledge of the local landscape and implying prominence was a key characteristic that influenced the location of a site.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)73-89
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Archaeological Science: Reports
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Irish Research Council ( GOIPG/2013/365 ) and was undertaken as part of a PhD at University College Cork, Ireland.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Elsevier Ltd


  • Bronze Age
  • Cumulative viewshed
  • GIS
  • Hillfort
  • Irish Bronze Age
  • Viewshed


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