1987:23 - 'Ferriters Cove', Ballyoughteragh South, Kerry

County: Kerry Site name: 'Ferriters Cove', Ballyoughteragh South

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

Author: Peter C. Woodman, Dept. of Archaeology, University College, Cork

Site type: Late Mesolithic settlement

ITM: E 432086m, N 605556m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.176228, -10.455218

During the 1985/86 seasons of excavations an area of 215m2 was opened. This entailed the removal of, in places, in excess of 3m of sand. These excavations had revealed four major areas of activity which were defined in particular in 1986. These areas were:

Area of silt covering a chipping floor, with several shallow hollows also revealed.

Excavation in 1987 entailed the extension of the area under examination to the south. The chipping floor was shown to be finite in size and to be approximately 5m across. In particular several good cores were found on the southern edge of the chipping floor. As was noted in 1986, most of the chipping floor was found stratified at the base of the silt, but some material was washed into the various hollows which were found along the eastern edge of the site.

This is an area of occupation centred on a hearth found in 1984. Numerous small heaps of shells and an arc of burnt stones were found associated with the hearth.

Excavation in 1987 involved the removal of several small heaps of shells which also contained quantities of mammal and fish bones. Between this area of occupation and the chipping floor were many areas of burnt subsoil indicating that numerous short-term fires were lit. In some areas, patches of silts were noted to contain artefacts. These may include pieces which had washed downslope during the formation of the silt.

Along the southern edge of this area, a number of fragments of pig bones were uncovered.

In previous years, a quantity of silt had been removed to expose an area of shells.

The centre of excavations in this area was a shell midden which turned out to be an arc of shells covering an area some 4m across. In order to fully excavate this area, the trench was extended by 1.5m. The shell layer never exceeded 0.2m in thickness. Again, as elsewhere on the site, some areas of burning were noted. One area in particular was made up of burnt soil or clay rather than burnt subsoil. One feature of note in this area was the high concentration of flint artefacts.

This area was particularly badly eroded and contained little in situ. Excavations concentrated on the examination of hearth areas which lay on the eastern edge of the site. Again, as in previous years, this area produced a scatter of larger pieces rather than any evidence of concentrated occupation. Again, as in the north-east, a number of what are now thought to be natural shallow hollows were excavated.

Ferriters Cove site 4
An area approximately 10m to the south of the main excavation was in danger of erosion and therefore a trench 5m x 5m, triangular in shape, was opened. This revealed near the cliff edge a small area of shells and the last remnants of a burnt area of subsoil. Scattered around this area were a number of stone tools including a pick and several pecked slates.

By the end of the 1987 season, the three clearly defined activity areas had been excavated. No clear evidence of dug-in or carefully constructed hearths were noted. No evidence of long-term structures was uncovered. In total, only three certain post-holes were found. These all lay in the northern areas but were too far apart to be associated with one structure. In the southern areas of the site, a concentration of small depressions was uncovered. While it is possible that these could be the base of stake-holes, it is also probable that they could have a natural explanation.

It is perhaps ironic that no clearly later prehistoric artefacts have been found since the discovery of the first pIano-convex knife fragment.

So far, several thousand artefacts and samples of faunal remains have been recovered from the main 1985-’87 excavation and from other areas. These all suggest that the Ferriters Cove area was the centre of numerous short-term occupations rather than a few major phases of occupation. The range of artefacts and faunal remains is a significant addition to our knowledge of Ireland’s Later Mesolithic.