1975:36 - KILLUCAN (KILPATRICK), Westmeath

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Westmeath Site name: KILLUCAN (KILPATRICK)

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

Author: D. L. Swan, St. Patrick’s College, Dublin.

Site type: Religious Enclosure

ITM: E 657439m, N 755822m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.549179, -7.133258

Excavation of the site recommenced in July 1975 and continued for a period of almost six weeks, concentrating on the S. sector where traces of occupational debris had already been noted. Cuttings were opened from inside the line of the fosse extending N. toward the centre of the site. The first features uncovered appeared as a series of parallel, shallow trenches, regularly spaced about 1.50m. apart, and consistently about 0.50m. wide. These ran diagonally across the whole of the excavated area, having been cut into the boulder clay to a depth of 6—7 cm. and represent the remains of the furrows of destroyed cultivation ridges belonging to an early period of activity.

Further evidence for cultivation was provided by the recovery of portions of at least four rotary querns and one large fragment of a millstone, as well as the discovery of a deposit of carbonised grain since identified as having both wheat and oat seeds. These were found in a heavy deposit of ash and carbon, perhaps the upcast from a large circular pit, which was located close by.

Underlying the furrows, the foundation trench of a circular hut was uncovered. It was slightly irregular in outline, with an apparent entrance to the N. and had an overall diameter of about 7.00m. Apart from some bone and charcoal, the only finds of significance from this trench were some fragments of antler showing traces of working, and a fairly complete clay mould of a type used for casting rings.

Cuttings were extended closer to the centre of the site, and these showed an area of considerable disturbance, making the recovery of recognisable features much more difficult. However, a shallow, somewhat irregular, curving trench or fosse, emerging from under the west wall of the churchyard, and apparently curving around the SW. corner, indicated the possibility of the existence of an internal enclosure, and from this area were recovered an iron hand-gouge, and a bone pin with anthropomorphic ally carved head, of a type recovered from Lagore, Co. Meath. Other finds from outside the area of the circular hut foundation were a fragment of a penannular brooch with flat, expanded terminal, having traces of incised, zoomorphic ornament, a finely made bronze needle and some fragments of crucibles. Large quantities of animal bone were recovered from almost all excavated area, as well as some metal slag, numerous unidentified iron objects, together with a handful of pottery, nine sherds in all. The latter seem to consist mainly of coarse, unglazed, cooking-ware with some fragments of a finer, green glazed type.

Thus a general pattern of occupation is beginning to emerge. Within the large oval enclosure there had been established a fairly typical habitation settlement, sometime in the Early Christian period. The main activity must have been animal husbandry, particularly cattle and pig raising as shown by the large amounts of animal bone recovered. This was supplemented by crop-raising and ancillary activities, such as grain-drying and flour milling. Other activities, normal for such a community, as for example iron-working and metal casting, working in bronze, wood, bone and antler, and perhaps leather or textile working, are indicated.

The occupation of the site continued in some form through the medieval period at which stage it boasted a fairly elaborate church, and presumably a burial ground. There is no evidence to link this church with the earlier community, since as yet no finds of a particularly religious or ecclesiastical significance have emerged. Nevertheless, the occurrence of the church and its church yard within the boundary of the ancient settlement can scarcely be fortuitous. A final statement must await the recovery of further evidence.