1985:58 - NEWTOWNLOW, Westmeath

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Westmeath Site name: NEWTOWNLOW

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

Author: Cormac Bourke, Dept. of Antiquities, Ulster Museum

Site type: Crannog

Period/Dating: Early Medieval (AD 400-AD 1099)

ITM: E 637842m, N 736926m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.381153, -7.431211

The removal of the upper layer(s) of this site, and the discovery of small finds, in the course of land reclamation led to its discovery in 1982. The small finds, divorced from their context, belong to the some chronological and cultural horizon as objects discovered subsequently during excavation. The combined artefactual evidence, including tenth-century Anglo-Saxon coins, suggests a central date of about 1000AD for occupation at the site.

Beneath the modern disturbance level a mantling of buff-tan clay covered much of the site. This overlay two conjoined hearths, apparently used in the open air, and a destruction layer attested by a massive concentration of red ash. This slopes downwards in all directions from an elevation at the approximate centre of the site. Embedded in the ash is a complex layering of timbers and brushwood, incorporating some worked pieces, interpreted as the remains of a substantial structure which was destroyed by fire. Finds from this area have included bone spindle-whorls and a bone toggle, an iron adze or pick and a segmented red enamel(?) bead.

At a lower level the substructure of the site has been found to consist of layers of timbers and brushwood, buttressed at one point by massive sections of tree trunks, which themselves rested on a sleeper beam. The timber and brushwood platform is enclosed by a palisade of heavy oak planks which delimits an area c. 20m in diameter. Finds from outside the palisade, in unstructured peat, have included parts of stave-built wooden vessels, an iron ladle and shaft-hole carpenter's axe, bone combs and a bone toggle like that found in the destruction level internally. A preliminary study of 30 - 40,000 animal bones and bone fragments by Vincent Butler has shown the presence of cattle, pig, sheep, goat and horse, as well as the wild species red deer, hare and fox.