Sunday 9 March 2014

Togher, Tocher - Wooden trackways

Once upon a time, the whole of north-western Europe was crisscrossed with a complex network of wooden roads. These roads were needed in order to cross the boggy and soggy lands of northern Europe, and became a necessity when wheeled carts were invented and introduced into the north of Europe. Eventually the wetlands and bogs swallowed these wooden trackways and due to a unique chemical structure of the bog soil, preserved them to this day. 

These wooden tracways have been built in the same areas continuously from the Neolithic times to the middle ages. These wooden structures are unique to Europe. The areas where most of these wooden tracways are found are south Baltic (Elbe estuary, and Lowlands, Jutland region), England and Ireland, with few found in other European bogs. Their construction required high level of carpentry skills as well as a coordinated, long term collective effort. 

Wooden trackways appear for the first time in Neolithic in South Baltic (Elbe estuary, and Lowlands, Jutland region). From there they were then brought to England and Ireland by the immigrants from the south Baltic. The continuous contacts between Ireland and South Baltic (Elbe estuary, and Lowlands, Jutland region) probably continued, because we see that cultural similarities were preserved over long time period all the way into middle ages. 

During the Iron age, people who built these wooden trackways used almost identical design and technology for their construction. When we add to this other cultural similarities between South Baltic (Elbe estuary, and Lowlands, Jutland region) and Ireland, we are faced with possibility that either identical population or identical culture existed in both areasInterestingly during the Iron age, both of these two areas where wooden trackways were extensively built, seem to have been inhabited by tribes of surprisingly similar names:

Ireland - Cauci, South Baltic (Elbe estuary region) - Chauce
Ireland - Menapii, South Baltic (Elbe estuary region) - Menapii
Ireland - Brigantes,  South Baltic (Elbe estuary region) -Frisii?

The oldest wooden trackways so far have been discovered in south Baltic area. The oldest one, wooden trackway Pr32dated to 4835-4715 BC was discovered in Campemoor bog near town called Damme in the district of Vechta, Lower Saxony. 

Campemoor bog wooden trackways

First similar wooden trackways, called Tochar, Togher, appear in Ireland within next two thousand years. Exactly when is difficult to say. The earliest known examples of wooden trackways in Ireland are partial remains of wooden trackways from Tara region, dated to around 2000 BC. 

Wiki page on history of roads in Ireland states:
The first routes in Ireland were prehistoric trackways, some of which were later developed into roads suited for wheeled vehicles. Many of Ireland's minor roads “may well have had their origin in pre-existing paths and trackways aligned in direct response to the physical environment.” Traces of these evolved roads which developed over very long periods, frequently from tracks of the prehistoric period, are still evident. The routes of such roads usually followed the natural landscape, following the tops of ridges and crossing rivers and streams at fording points.
There is almost no evidence that large roads were constructed in Ireland during the Stone Age. However, a very large oval henge enclosure, thought to date from c. 2500 BC (the Neolithic period) may possibly have had an ancient roadway associated with it. The henge was discovered at the Hill of Tara archaeological complex in geophysical surveys carried out between 1999 and 2001. It is unlikely that any roadway from this period would have been used as a transport route. Excavations carried out at Edercloon, Co. Longford in advance of road construction discovered a dense "network of wooden trackways and platforms, which were constructed from the Neolithic (c. 4000BC - 2200BC) to the early medieval period (c. AD 400-790)."
So the earliest wooden track way in Ireland was discovered next to a henge, or rondel enclosure in Brega area, near the Hill of Tara or Tabor Breg. Henge is a central European type megalithic structure, which originates in the same area which later became the Celtic heartland. The Central European cultures associated with roundels (Lengyel, Stroked Pottery, Rössen) are indicated in yellow. The location of the earliest wooden trackway, in Vechta, Lower Saxony, is located right at the edge of the Rossen culture:

Henges appear in Central Europe around the same time as the first wooden trackways appear in South Baltic (Elbe estuary, and Lowlands, Jutland region). Later henges appear in Ireland and England, following the same cultural transfer route that brought wooden trackways to Ireland and England.

Wooden trackways could have been constructed in Ireland even earlier, but are now lying in areas submerged under the sea. An old Tochar wooden road was recently unearthed in the west of Ireland during the last spell of bad weather.
Remains of an oak trackway, estimated to be between 3,500 and 4,500 years old, on the shore near Furbo, Co Galway. Oak structure confirms human habitation before Galway Bay was formed.
Furbo trackway:

The track was built probably between 2500 bc and 1500 bc, and may have been built when the sea level was rising and was gradually enveloping the forest that pre-dated Galway Bay. Together with the Bearna canoe, this wooden trackway is the first evidence of human habitation within the ancient forests and lagoons in this area. It could have been built during the late Neolithic or early Bronze age era, and may have been ceremonial or may have been built across wetland which was decaying forest, forming into bog....The wooden trackway has a north-west orientation and is on a storm beach near Furbo, looking south to the Burren and Black Head. The Bearna canoe was found on the shore near Bearna in December 2002, and is preserved in the Galway Atlantaquaria in Salthill. The canoe was found to be 4,740 years old when radiocarbon-dated. It is believed the trackway may be of a similar age.
One of the best examples of Togher trackway in Ireland is Corlea Trackway:
The Corlea Trackway (Irish: Bóthar Chorr Liath) is an Iron Age trackway, or togher, near the village of Keenagh, south of Longford town, County Longford, in Ireland. It was known locally as the Danes Road.

The trackway is situated in an area which is today a generally flat and open landscape. In the Iron Age it was covered by bog, quicksand, and ponds, surround by dense woodlands of birch, willow, hazel and alder while higher ground was covered by oak and ash. The terrain was dangerous and impassible for much of the year.

In 1984, timbers recovered from Corlea were radiocarbon dated to the Iron Age, rather than the Bronze Age as had been expected. Excavations to 1991 in Corlea bog revealed 59 toghers in an area of around 125 hectares and further work has raised the total to 108 with a further 76 in the nearby Derryoghil bog.

The majority of these toghers are constructed from woven hurdles laid on heaped brushwood on top of the surface, built to be used by people on foot. Four, including Corlea 1, the Corlea Trackway proper, are corduroy roads, built from split planks laid on top of raised rails and suitable for wheeled traffic. The Corlea Trackway is made from oak planks 3 to 3.5 metres long and around 15 centimetres thick laid on rails around 1.2 metres apart. The road was at least 1 kilometre long. Dendrochronological study suggests that the timber used in construction was felled in late 148 BC or early in 147 BC and the road built then. Raftery estimated that the sleepers alone amount to a 300 large oak trees, or a thousand wagon-loads, with a similar volume of birch for the rails. The Corlea Trackway ended on a small island, from which a second trackway, excavated in 1957 and since radiocarbon dated also to 148 BC, again around 1 kilometre long, connected to dry land on the far side of the bog. The construction of the roadway required a great deal of labour, comparable to that used in the construction of ritual monuments such as barrows.
This is an example of one of these wooden trackways:

Corlea Trackway:

A timber trackway is a simple raised wooden walkway used as the shortest route between two places in a bog or peatland. They have been built for thousands of years as a means of getting between two points. Timber trackways have been identified in archaeological finds in Neolithic England, dating to 500 years before Stonehenge. Radiocarbon methods date them to be about 6,000 years old.
The best examples of wooden trackways from Iron Age are in the south Baltic, in the area of Lower Saxony inhabited by Chauci, and in east Ireland, in the area inhabited by Cauci. The way these Iron Age wooden corduroy roads were constructed is so similar and superior to the rest of the roads found, that archaeologists have long “suspected” that they could have only been built by the same people. But because history says that there has been no migration from south Baltic to Ireland, the possibility that they might have been built by the same people was discarded. History of roads in Ireland has this to say about the location and direction of most important old Irish roads:
According to an entry in the Annals of the Four Masters for AD 123, there were five principal highways (Irish: slighe) leading to Tara (Irish: Teamhair) in Early Medieval Ireland. The entry in the Annals claims that these routes were 'discovered' at the birth of Conn of the Hundred Battles:
The night of Conn's birth were discovered five principal roads leading to Teamhair, which were never observed till then. These are their names: Slighe Asail, Slighe Midhluachra, Slighe Cualann, Slighe Mhór, Slighe Dala. Slighe Mhór is that called Eiscir Riada, i.e. the division line of Ireland into two parts, between Conn and Eoghan Mór.[9]
In reality, "the ancient road system (such as it was - there cannot have been a developed national system) fanned out not from Tara but from Dublin.".
 So the system of wooden roads was leading from and to Dublin, the center of the land of the Laigin, the spear people and also the center of the land which was during the early Iron Age inhabited by Cauci. 

In Irish wooden trackways are called Togher and Tochar. Togher and Tochar could be two different spellings of the same word. This is quite common in Irish. Official meaning of the words Togher, Tochar in Irish is causeway, wooden trackway. But there is a village in the Wicklow mountains which is in English called Roundwood. Its Irish name is Tochar. Roundwood was the material from which wooden trackways called Togher and Tochar were made. Did people in Wicklow preserve the original meaning of the word Tochar: Roundwood? 

In Serbian there is a word "tokariti" which means to spin. It also means working the material by spinning it and applying force from the side, which produces round, roundwood, disc like objects, like disk cart wheels.  Word "tokar" means turnerIn Serbian we also have a word "toka" which means ball, disc like metal ornament worn on the chest or clasps, fibula, button.  

Toka Serbia

Medieval toke Bosnia

Toke Montenegro

Toke Croatia

It seems that Serbian word Toka means roundwood, disc, wheel, circle, sphere, but also clasp, button...Early wheels and buttons were both made from roundwood. Two Serbian words "točak" meaning wheel and "točka" meaning point could be related to this word and possibly derived from it...

Another interesting word in Serbian is "tocilo", or "točilo" meaning whetstone, grinder, grindstone. This word probably has the same root "toka" meaning disc...

Točilo - Whetstone

Točilo or žrvanj - Grinding stone

These are ancient Irish disc ornaments worn on the chest:

What is interesting is that in Turkish we find word "tok" meaning full, rotund, word "toka" meaning buckle, clasp, fibula...In Bulgarian word toka also means fibula, clasp, buckle. 

This is an early 800 bc fibula from the Balkans. Is this "toka"?

Was the old name for all these disc, circle like ornaments “toka”? Was the old word for round, disc, wheel "toka"? And did “tochar” mean roundwood, or things made from roundwood, disc wheels for disc wheeled cart, and  roads for disc wheeled carts? 

This is an example of a primitive "Toka", round-wood wheel:

First firm evidence of wheeled vehicles appears from the mid 4th millennium BCE in Mesopotamia, the Northern Caucasus (Maykop culture) and Central Europe, so the question of which culture originally invented the wheeled vehicle remains unresolved.

The earliest well-dated image of a wheeled vehicle, radiocarbon dated to 3500-3350 BCE, is on the Bronocice pot, a Funnelbeaker culture ceramic vase discovered in 1976 during the archaeological excavation of a large Neolithic settlement in Bronocice by the Nidzica River, circa 50 km north-east of Kraków.  The vase is preserved in the Archaeological Museum in Kraków.

Images on the Bronice pot include five rudimentary representations of what seems to be a wagon. They represent a vehicle with a shaft for a draught animal, and four wheels. The lines connecting them probably represent axles. The circle in the middle possibly symbolizes a container for harvest. These images suggest the existence of wagons in Central Europe as early as in the 4th millennium BCE. The wagons were presumably drawn by aurochs, ancestors of domestic cattle, whose remains were found with the pot. Their horns were worn out as if tied with a rope, possibly a result of using a kind of yoke,

Other images on the pot include a tree, a river and what may be fields or wooden trackways intersected by roads or ditches or the layout of a village. 

This means that wheeled carts were invented in Central Europe, the land where R1a, I2a and R1b people mixed for thousands of years. Is it possible that toka, tokariti, tokar are old central European words for circle, round, roundwood, disc, spinning, disc wheeled cart, road for disc wheeled carts, which were somehow preserved in Ireland, in the Balkans and in Turkey? 

The oldest wheel in the world was found in a marsh Slovenia and is 5,150 years old. People who made the wheel lived in wood pile lake settlements (crannogs) which are another thing that connects Ireland, South Baltic, Central Europe and Balkans.

The oldest wheel in the world:

The Ljubljana Marshes Wheel is a wooden wheel that was found in the Ljubljana Marshes some 20 km south of Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, in 2002. Radiocarbon dating, performed in the VERA laboratory (Vienna Environmental Research Accelerator) in Vienna, showed that it is approximately 5,150 years old, which makes it the oldest wooden wheel yet discovered.
Remainings of pile dwellings were discovered in the Ljubljana Marshes as early as in 1875. Since 2011, the site has been protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site as an example of prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps, a special form of dwellings in areas with lakes and marshes. The archaeologists at the excavation site identified over one thousand piles in the river-bed of the Ig river, near Ig. They reconstructed the dwellings of 3.5m x 7m in size, separated by approximately 2 to 3m. The analyses of the piles revealed that the dwellings were repaired each year and that a new house had to be built on the same place in as little as 10 to 20 years.

The oldest inhabitants settled in the region as early as 9,000 years ago; in the Middle Stone Age they built temporary residences on isolated rocks in the marsh and on the fringe and they lived by hunting and gathering. The permanent settlements were not built until the first farmers appeared approximately 6,500 years ago in the time of the Late Stone Age.

The wooden wheel belonged to a prehistoric two-wheel cart – a pushcart. Similar wheels have been found in the hilly regions of Switzerland and southwest Germany, but the Ljubljana Marshes one is bigger and older.[2] It shows that wooden wheels appeared almost simultaneously in Mesopotamia and Europe.[1]

It has a diameter of 72 centimetres (28 in) and is made of ash wood, whereas its 124 centimetres (49 in) long axle is made of oak.[2] The axle was attached to the wheels with oak wood wedges, which meant that the axle rotated together with the wheels. The wheel was made from a tree that grew in the vicinity of the pile dwellings and at the time of the wheel construction was approximately 80 years old.
The oldest wheel in the world is not the only artifact found in the Ljubljana marshes:
The Ljubljana marshes, where the wooden wheel was found, are a perfect place for old objects to be preserved. There have been many finds uncovered in this area. Apart from the wooden wheel, axle and canoe, there have been innumerable objects found which are up to 6,500 years old. It may be surprising, but older finds are more abundant. Apart from the canoe, there is also a mould for copper axes from 4th millennium BC.
 In the end I have to ask these questions: 

Who were the original wooden road builders from the continent? Are they related to the henge bulders? When they came to Ireland, what else did they bring with them? What language did they speak? What genes did they have? How come we have this linguistic relic, Toka, Tokariti, Tokar preserved in Serbian, Irish and Turkish? 

So many questions, so few answers...


  1. That's very interesting and well explained. Thank you very much! :-) Joëlle

  2. Nice job. Very well thought out.

  3. 1)kada se daske redjaju-prave put-tok,(imamo i vodeni put po-TOK),a verovatno ima veze sa tockom(diskom),okretachem,kotachem,(tokachem).Pada mi napamet zvuk kada se vozimo ovom nasom "brzom zeleznicom'' tok-tok.....tok-tok.......tok-tok.....a to bi bio bas taj zvuk- prelazak kotacha po kolju-tok,tok,tok,tok,tok...
    2)togher-meni zvuchi na stozer,stog.
    3)togher-(mozda iz toga i nastaje rec-''together''),opet me vraca logicki na stog,snop.
    Ovo pisem samo kao pokusaj malenog doprinosa vasem radu,ko zna mozda i neko moje zapazanje,vama da neku novu ideju.Sve sto napisem je uvek inspirisano vasim tekstom,i njegovom logikom,tako da momentalno da inspiraciju oko par upecatljivih stvari.
    Srpski Irche, podigni brkove,da ti vidju toke na prsima... upravo mi je palo na pamet i TKANJE,ima logike sa nizanjem cvorova,pa na neki nachin se i toke tkaju....