Fulacht fiadh
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This site is in the townland of Castleinch, or Inchyolaghan, in the parish of Castleinch, 4km south-west of Kilkenny City. The area is a flat plain stretching east of the Slieve Ardagh Hills to Kilkenny City and the Nore valley, and the site is 60m south of the Breagagh River. The site was partially exposed during archaeological monitoring of a Bord Gáis Éireann gas pipeline development (see No. 426 above). Excavation was carried out in August and September 1999 before development.

The site was a partially truncated fulacht fiadh with stratified burnt mound continuing east of the area of excavation. The site contained two troughs, a possible working surface, a mound of unused boiling stones, a buried sod and a smaller boiling pit. The underlying limestone bedrock was covered by yellow/brown boulder clay, with areas of iron-panning.

Trough A was to the north-west of the site and was an irregular ovoid or pear-shaped pit with vertical north and east sides, a straight, steep southern side and a flat base. It was 1.1m long, 0.75m wide and 0.5m deep, orientated north-east/south-west, but was possibly recut and may have originally been circular or square. It contained a primary silting of fine, grey sand with charcoal, sealed by large, sub-rounded stones (sandstone cobbles: 20% fire-cracked) and fragmented cattle bone in grey/black, silty sand, possibly representing the last firing of this trough. This in turn was sealed by an upper backfill of burnt mound material.

Trough B was 3m south-east of, and post-dated, Trough A. It was a shallow, subrectangular pit with square profile and flat base, measuring 1.8m+ in excavated length, 1.5m in width and 0.25m in depth. Four post-holes and two stake-holes were cut into the base of this trough around the western edge in an irregular pattern, and two were cut across the centre, possibly representing the staves or sails of a decayed or removed wooden lining. Each post-hole was filled by a grey/black, silty clay with fire-cracked stone and charcoal. All these cuts had tapering profiles, suggesting that the uprights they contained were sharpened. The trough was filled by a single, uniform backfill of burnt mound material, the basal part of which was substantially wetter than the upper part, suggesting that the trough successfully cut below the water-table.

An oval pit with concave profile was found north of Trough B, within the area of the burnt mound. It was over 0.6m long, 0.5m wide and 0.2m deep, orientated east-west. It contained a dark grey/brown, sandy silt clay with occasional fire-cracked stone, charcoal and gravel and produced a possible bronze swan-necked pin.

A scattered area of similar-sized, partially heat-affected sandstone (with very occasional limestone measuring less than 0.2m) represented a collection of unused boiling stones (C18). The stone, selected for geology and size, was heated but not cracked through contact with cold water and therefore either not used in the boiling process or used only once in the latter stages of the simmering process and not reused.

An intermittent layer of mid-brown, silty clay (C19) lay north-east of the stone scatter and represented a soil dump, possibly associated with a residual buried sod, measuring 2m in exposed length, 1.5m in width and 0.1m in depth.

A possible platform or working surface was found to the east of Trough B, covering C18 and C19. The surface consisted of a compacted area of redeposited, natural boulder clay with occasional charcoal flecks, measuring 4m in exposed length, 3m in exposed width and 0.2m in depth.

The partly truncated oblong and concave mound sealed these features and continued under the baulk to the west. The mound (which was not visible before excavation) covered an area of over 10m north-south, 7m+ east-west, with a truncated depth of 0.45m, and was made up of fire-cracked sandstone (0.1-0.25m in individual diameter), charcoal and silt. Within the top of the mound were isolated lenses of dark grey clay, 0.1m thick. These and the mound were sealed by a layer of compacted, grey/brown, friable, silty sand with charcoal, gravel and fire-cracked stone, 3m in diameter, 0.1m deep, possibly representing a buried sod line or soil dump.

Modern activity on this site was evidenced by two pipe-trenches cutting across the northern and western portion of the site.
Paul Stevens for Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd, 2 Killiney View, Albert Road Lower, Glenageary, Co. Dublin.

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