1986:35 - Aghaboe, Laois

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Laois Site name: Aghaboe

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

Author: Anthony Candon, Roscrea Heritage Centre, Roscrea, Co. Tipperary

Site type: Medieval monastic site

ITM: E 632824m, N 685615m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.920363, -7.511905

Restoration work at the 14th-century Dominican friary church at Aghaboe, Co. Laois, was undertaken by a local committee using an AnCO/ CYTP scheme. Virtually the entire N wall of the church was missing and as it was proposed to rebuild this wall an area 26.4m long x 3m wide was opened in an effort to trace the original foundations. The excavation, which lasted for five weeks, was funded by AnCO and undertaken by the Roscrea Archaeological Survey team.

Five cuttings were opened, each 5m x 3m, and numbered 1-5 from the east. Cuttings 1 and 2 revealed decayed mortar in which, inside the line of the church wall, randomly scattered human bone lay at a depth of between 45cm and 90cm. In cuttings 3 and 4 the decayed mortar, varying in thickness between 5cm and 20cm, overlay a mixture of earth and decayed mortar with loose stone randomly mixed through it particularly over the line of the wall and outside it on the N. Beneath this was a layer of heavy yellow clay in which, inside the line of the wall, articulated and partly articulated skeletons lay at a depth of 55cm and below. These were laid coffinless with the feet pointing to the E, often closely placed on top of one another, sometimes with part of the lower skeleton removed to make place for the upper.

In cutting S the same mixture of earth and mortar yielded only random human bone. At a depth of 80cm the deposit became blacker and more refined and contained two skeletons. In all, five intact and six incomplete skeletons were recovered.

Two short sections of the foundations of the N wall of the church were exposed in cuttings 3 and 4. These measured 3.5m and 3m in length, 1.55m in width and survived to a height of 0.4m. The foundations rested on the heavy yellow clay which was probably brought to the site to provide a firm base on which to build the church.

Very few artefacts were recovered, none in any clearly defined context. These included a worn coin or token, possibly of late 18th-century date; the bowl and three stem fragments of a clay pipe (all from different locations); a sherd of green/brown glazed pottery; the rim of a fairly large vessel and several smaller sherds of factory-made domestic ware; two lead weights, one with letters faintly incised on it, and several pieces of glass slag.

The church wall foundations are medieval in date. The finds probably belong to the 18th/19th centuries and as they come from the same general context as the skeletons it is likely that the interments are of similar date.

A full report of the excavation will appear in Éile 3 (1987).