1972:0024 - BELDERGBEG, Mayo

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Mayo Site name: BELDERGBEG

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

Author: Mr. S. Caulfield, Dept of Archaeology, University College Dublin

Site type: Neolithic Settlement

ITM: E 498473m, N 840605m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.304093, -9.559965

The excavation in Beldergbeg, Co. Mayo which was begun in
November 1971 was resumed on July 4, 1972 and continued until
August 29.

The areas of the site which had produced finds in the first season’s work were concentrated on. In one area which had an extensive spread of charcoal, about 15 flint scrapers, some small sherds of pottery and a cow’s horn were found. The area which had previously yielded broken Neolithic pottery vessels produced further sherds of similar pottery. Further excavation in the area of the late wall which is built on a growth of peat confirmed the two periods of activity on the site.

Half of the circular earth and stone structure, 9m in diameter, was excavated. A wall trench immediately inside the enclosing bank shows that this is in all probability a house. Finds were rare but two broken saddle querns were found and a heat-shattered flint implement. The amount of charcoal within the enclosure in particular in the wall trench suggests that the structure was burnt down.

The most important result from this seasons excavation was the evidence for prehistoric tillage which came from beside the circular enclosure. Plough marks indicating cross— ploughing were recovered over a l0in square area. Overlying the plough marks and extending over an area 20 x 20m was a pattern of ridges and furrows indicating subsequent spade cultivation. The plough marks are the first discovery of this phenomenon in Ireland and the pattern compares with the eight to ten examples known in Britain and the approximately 100 known from the continent. The apparently Neolithic date for the Beldergbeg plough marks makes this evidence of ploughing one of the earliest known in Europe. Its discovery in an open field where there is the opportunity to investigate the extent of the ploughing gives the discovery added significance. Ridge and furrow cultivation overlying plough marks is unparalleled elsewhere.

The main results of the 1972 season of excavation were therefore the evidence of prehistoric agriculture which was discovered. Apart from the obviously agricultural reason for the enclosing stone walls which led to the excavation of this site, evidence of agricultural activity was forthcoming from the plough marks, ridges and furrows, cowt s horn and saddle querns. The other finds whil~ not very numerous are sufficient to indicate that the two periods of activity on the site took place within Neolithic times.

It is hoped to continue the excavation in the 1973 season.