1972:0018 - REASK, Kerry

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kerry Site name: REASK

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number:

Author: Mr. T. Fanning, National Parks and Monuments Branch, Office of Public Works

Site type: Monastic Enclosure

ITM: E 436485m, N 604356m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.166774, -10.390379

During the summer and autumn of 1972 excavations, prior to conservation work was undertaken at this early enclosure best known as the site of a fine cross—inscribed pillar—stone. Before the excavations commenced the foundations of two clochans were visible above the surface of the ground in the northern sector of the site. On removal of the collapsed stone it was clear that these two dry—walled structures had been originally conjoined. An entrance, paved with large slabs, gave access to one clochan and an internal opening would have provided access to the other. This latter feature and most of the original habitation levels had, however, been destroyed by later alterations possibly due to the re—use of the structure as an animal shelter. The re—building had involved the erection of internal dividing walls and an entrance passage at the point where the two clochans had originally joined. The upper-stone of a rotary quern was recovered from the basal course of one of the late dividing walls. Other finds, largely from the collapsed stone, included a number of perforated stone discs, a decorated spindle—whorl and a decorated glass bead. Surrounding both clochans were substantial traces of an annulus of stones built most likely to secure a facing of turves placed between it and the actual clochan walls.

iii the south—western sector of the site excavation revealed ae remains of another small clochan in the floor of which was a deep fire-pit filled with burnt stones and peat charcoal. This clochan was also one of a conjoined pair — the second structure having an inner face of large slabs set on end with dry—walling outside and on top. It contained the main entrance with an internal opening providing access between the two. To the east of these clochans there was evidence that iron— smelting had taken place on the site — considerable quantities of iron slag, including a number of furnace bottoms, were recovered. Finds from this area included fragments of two rotary querns, a number of stone spindle—whorls and a sherd of wheel-made pottery probably of sub-Roman type. Further east and close to the roadway which runs through the site from north to south the excavations revealed traces of internal dividing walls and the remains of a small rectangular stone— built structure which had been erected against the inner face of the enclosure of the wall. The entrance to this structure was blocked by a single slab set on end. Excavation of the interior produced quantities of peat charcoal, a little animal bone and some limpet shells.

A field wall crosses the centre of the enclosure from east to west. There were no surface indications of any structures here but excavation, towards the close of the season, showed that this area too had been occupied and pits, post-holes and traces of paving provided ample evidence of this. The fragmentary remains of what had probably been an early, curved wall containing a paved entrance also came to light. Finds were few, but included a group of pot-sherds of hand—made coarse ware from the primary levels. The sherds are of a brownish buff colour with blackened inner surface and belong to a large, probably flat—bottomed vessel or vessels. Two rim sherds of a grass—tempered pot were also recovered. Close parallels for this coarse ware are not readily forthcoming, but a detailed study may show some relationships to other coarse wares found on sites in the Munster area.

Some traces of the enclosure wall had survived partly obscured by later field fences. Excavation showed that on average it was over two metres in width and had been faced at intervals by large slabs set on end. In places an additional width suggested that repairs or strengthening had been carried out Where the two northern-most clochans are sited a change in direction coupled with a change in the character of the wall itself (it narrows and lacks the large facing stones) would seem to indicate a major structural alteration. In the course of uncovering the wall—foundations outside the other two conjoined clochans the chamber and passage of a small souterrain came to light. The chamber was well built of dry walling and the short narrow passage, partly constructed of slabs set on end and roofed with lintels, led out into the nearby field. The fill of stone and soil was devoid of finds.

Only one cutting was made in the area lying to the east of the roadway, where in the south—eastern sector the outlines of a small clochan appeared above ground level. This was exposed as a simple circular structure with the remains of an annulus surrounding it, and a partly destroyed entrance facing north—eastwards.