NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Mayo Site name: KINARD, CO. MAYO

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR MA038-133 Licence number:


Site type: Early Bronze Age graves

ITM: E 509504m, N 815223m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.078162, -9.382909

In late November 1934 a short cist containing an inhumation and a vase was rediscovered during the levelling of a field near Crossmolina, Co. Mayo. The cist had been found four years earlier and the vessel broken in an attempt to remove it. The sherds of the vase had been replaced and the cist was resealed by Mr W. Hanahoe, the landowner. It appears that in 1934 the site was visited by a correspondent for the Western People newspaper. The NMI was alerted to the find by the newspaper article, and requested an investigation by the Garda Síochána at Crossmolina. The site was not visited by the NMI but was investigated on its behalf by local National School teacher Mr Patrick Caulfield.222 This report is based on Caulfield’s written account and sketches of the site (Pl. 49). The human remains were examined by Laureen Buckley

Fig. 3.122—Location map, Kinard, Co. Mayo.

Location (Fig. 3.122)
The site was in the townland of Kinard, north-east Co. Mayo, approximately 5km south-west of Crossmolina town.223 It lay approximately 0.4m below ground level on the south-eastern side of a hillock at an altitude of 30–60m above sea level. The hillock consisted of loose limestone gravel mixed with boulders, and the local soil is a light sandy clay. The site was some 40m east of the banks of the Deel River. No sites of similar date have been found in the townland.

Description of site
The cist was rectangular in plan, with its long axis aligned north/south. Internally, it measured 0.76m wide by 1.3m long by 0.58m high. The chamber was formed of six main edge-set slabs, one at each end and two at each of the sides. These slabs were of granite, red sandstone and limestone and were relatively regular in shape, with an average thickness of 0.25m. One or two packing stones were noticed outside the cist, and some smaller stones lying around the area had evidently been moved before investigation. The cist was sealed with two capstones, both of which had been placed with their smooth surface to the inside. The floor of the cist was paved with a number of small shale flags. The pit dug to receive the cist does not seem to have been noted or identified.
The grave contained an inhumation burial of a young adult (1935:11), possibly female, accompanied by a vase and some mussel shells (1935:12–15). A quantity of gravel and clay had fallen into the grave when it was reopened, and many of the bones had been moved from their original position. According to Mr Hanahoe, the skull had originally lain in the southern end of the grave, but by the time of Caulfield’s investigation it was located in the centre of the cist. The skeleton, identified by Buckley as that of a young adult, was probably articulated and lay in a crouched position, probably on its left-hand side. The vase was located in the southwestern corner of the cist, and two mussel shells and some ‘reddish material’ were also found here. The exact disposition of the vase (i.e. whether inverted or upright) is not known.

Fig. 3.123—Ceramic vessel, Kinard, Co. Mayo.

Bipartite vase, 1935:16 (Fig. 3.123)
The vessel was recovered in a fragmentary condition. It is a small tripartite vessel with one perforated lug. The vessel is thick and the fabric contains mica or schist grits. The decorative scheme is unusual. The rim, which is slightly everted, slopes internally and is decorated on the inside with an incised zigzag. The rim externally is decorated with a row of small depressions. The neck is decorated with a zigzag, the lower panels of which are decorated with horizontal incised lines, the upper panels being filled with small depressions as on the rim. The shoulder groove is plain but there is a row of depressions above and below. The body is decorated with a zigzag panel, the lower panel being filled with horizontal incised lines. The lower part of the body is decorated with irregular horizontal incised lines.
Dimensions: H 7.8cm; ext. D rim 9.5cm; est. D base 5cm.

A sample of the human remains was submitted for AMS dating and yielded a date of 3560±40 BP, which calibrates to 2024–1772 BC.224 Brindley (2007, 255) places the vase from Kinard in stage 1 of the development of the vase tradition, which is dated to 2020/1990–1920 BC. Mussel shells were also found at Annaghkeen, Co. Galway (this volume, pp 194–9). Although there is no archaeological evidence that can determine the function of the mussel shells, it has been suggested that occasional discoveries of animal bone and other possible foodstuffs may represent either the actual remains of a last meal or are symbolic of the sustenance required to take the person into the next life. The site is very close to the bank of the Deel River and within a short distance of Lough Conn to the east, from where the mussel shells may have come.


Description of grave
Burial 1935:11 consisted mainly of skull and some long bones only. Preservation was very poor, probably as a direct consequence of the disturbance of the cist four years before excavation. Exposure of bones and subsequent reburial greatly hastens the decomposition process. In addition, the bones were encrusted with mineral deposits and a previous attempt to clean this off had resulted in the removal of the outer layer of bone. The left side of the frontal bone was present but incomplete and the right side was missing. Part of the left parietal bone, the left temporal bone and part of the left occipital bone were present. The left zygomatic bone and the left side of the maxilla were also present. There were no vertebrae or ribs.
Only the left humerus survived from the arm bones; it was complete but the joint ends were partially decayed. None of the pelvis was present. The left femur was complete but the outer surface of the bone was ‘pock-marked’, possibly as a result of water dripping on the bone and causing irregular decay. Only the distal half of the right femur remained, although the joint end was very decayed and the outer surface of the bone had been almost completely removed. The shafts of both tibiae were also present but there were no foot bones.

Age and sex
It was not possible to determine the sex of this individual. The only observable features of the skull were an incomplete mastoid process and a damaged supraorbital rim. The root of the zygomatic arch appeared to be of the female type, but this is not enough on its own to assess the sex. The diameters of the head of the femur and the humerus appeared to be in the female range, but with the decay and damage it is not certain that this is an accurate measurement. One can only say that this is a possible female inhumation.
The epiphyseal line was still visible at the head of the femur. There was no attrition of the molar teeth and the lambdoid suture was open. These all indicate that the individual was probably a young adult aged 17–25 years at the time of death.


There was no attrition on any of the teeth. The crowns were encrusted in mineral deposits so it was not possible to determine whether there were calculus deposits or enamel hypoplasia present.

This was the incomplete skeleton of a young adult individual, possibly, but not definitely, female. The skeleton had suffered severely as it had been subject to dripping water that had encrusted it with mineral deposits. Disturbance of the burial and reburial four years before it was recovered had greatly hastened the decay process. Finally, over-enthusiastic scrubbing at the time of its recovery had removed most of the mineral deposits, as well as the outer layer of the remaining bone. There was no pathology noted on the bone but the preferential preservation of the left side indicates that the body had originally lain on its left side in the cist.

222. Father of Professor Seamus Caulfield, lately of the Department of Archaeology, University College Dublin.
223. Parish of Crossmolina, barony of Tirawley. SMR MA038-133——. IGR 109533 315213.
224. GrA-24153.