Despite the name fort, they are more accurately described as enclosed farmsteads, that use vallates (earthen banks) to define and enclose the domestic and agricultural space. Within the circular earthen bank or stone walls, the inhabitants carried out their every-day farmyard activities. They cooked over open fires or in pits, corn was ground for making bread or porridge on hand-powered querns, and a wide variety of dairy products were made from the large volumes of milk produced daily.
The contemporaries of the people living in ringforts produced the magnificent artifacts of the Golden Age - the Ardagh Chalice, the Tara Brooch, the Book of Kells, the Derrynaflan Hoard and many other masterpieces.
Some ringforts contain an underground passage, which was likely to have been designed as a food storage area. Ventilated, but draft free, souterrains maintain a constant temperature of around 4 degrees no matter how hot it gets on the surface. They could also be used as places of refuge during attacks on the ringfort. Many souterrains have secondary or tertiary chambers which are difficult to enter but easy to defend by those inside, thereby affording their occupants a measure of security.