NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kildare Site name: KILDANGAN, CO. KILDARE

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR KD027-046 Licence number: E1084


Site type: Iron Age and early medieval graves, c. 300 BC–c. AD 1200


ITM: E 667993m, N 706463m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.104408, -6.984593

In April 1987 human remains were discovered during bulldozing in preparation for the construction of a new stable on the grounds of Kildangan Stud near Monasterevin, Co. Kildare. The land, formerly part of the More-O’Ferrall estate, had recently been purchased by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The spoil from the building site was being used to fill a disused quarry some 850m north of the find-spot. On sifting through the spoil, portions of ribs, pelvis and cranium were recovered at a depth of c. 3m below ground level. The find was reported to the NMI by the Garda Síochána at Monasterevin and was first visited

Fig. 4.22—Location map, Kildangan, Co. Kildare

by Raghnall Ó Floinn, Mary Cahill and Eamonn P. Kelly. The site was visited again a few days later and a one-day rescue excavation was undertaken by Raghnall Ó Floinn, assisted by Paul Mullarkey. The human remains from the site were examined by Barra Ó Donnabháin
Location (Fig. 4.22)
The site was in the townland of Kildangan, west Co. Kildare, 6km south-east of Monasterevin.44 The stable yard was built into a natural rise in the field and the skeleton was found near the northern edge of this, at an altitude of 70–80m above sea level. The townland of Kildangan comprises a small parish in the barony of Offaly West.45 On the first edition of the OS 6in. sheet (1859) the central area of the parish is occupied by a tree plantation surrounding Kildangan Castle. The burial is situated just outside this plantation, which appears to be contained within a curvilinear enclosure, probably a product of nineteenthcentury landscaping. The site is some 3km west of the boundary between the baronies of Offaly East and Offaly West.

Description of site
The grave consisted of a simple pit clearly visible as U-shaped in section (Fig. 4.23). On excavation it was found that the western half of the pit had been dug away. The remaining portion measured 1.1m long by 0.7m wide and appeared to be rectangular in outline, aligned almost due east/west. Traces of burnt wood were visible as stains in the grave fill at either side of the skeleton. These were not continuous but appeared to measure 0.1m in maximum width by 0.05m in maximum thickness. They did not extend under the skeleton but appeared to

Fig. 4.23—Plan and section of grave, Kildangan, Co. Kildare.

have been boards rather than twigs (the grain could be distinguished in places running parallel to the long axis of the grave). A number of boulders were placed in the upper fill of the pit—three along the left side and one along the right.
The grave contained the extended inhumation of a young adult female (1987:117) aligned south-west/north-east, and no accompanying artefacts were found. The upper body was removed during bulldozing but it was possible to see that the body had been placed on the floor of the pit in an extended position, the legs lying parallel with the feet turned outwards so that the foot bones were visible in profile.46 Only one patella survived and this lay between the two knee joints. A triangular splinter of limestone was placed over the left knee area. The out-turned position of the feet indicates that the body had not been wrapped in a shroud.

A sample of bone was submitted for AMS dating and yielded a date of 1610±45 BP, which corresponds to the period 342–555.47
As this grave did not have any diagnostic features, its date was only revealed through radiocarbon dating. Although the body had clearly not been wrapped in a shroud, some effort was clearly expended in this interment, with the use of some boulders and the inclusion of burnt wood.

Barra Ó Donnabháin

The remains (1987:117) recovered from the grave consist of the mostly complete lower limbs of an adult. The left leg and thigh are complete with the exception of the patella. A small portion of the left ilium was also recovered. The proximal half of the right femur is not present though the rest of the right leg is complete. Some fragments of the upper body were recovered from the quarried area: fragments of the left parietal, left scapula, some ribs and some of the bones of the hands. The remains were reasonably well preserved, though the long bones are in a fragmentary State.

Age and sex
The presence of a marked pre-auricular sulcus on the ilium indicates that this was a female, and this is confirmed by the general gracility of the remains. The only basis on which an age estimate could be made was the degree of suture closure in the fragment of parietal. The portion of the sagittal suture observable is open and convoluted. This suggests that this was probably a younger adult, though it must be borne in mind that the closure rate of the sutures is quite variable.

Using the formulae devised by Trotter and Gleser (1952; 1958), an estimate of 165cm is obtained for the maximum living stature of this individual.
Long bone measurements are listed in Table 4.4.

A small exostosis occurs at the distal end of the shaft of the right tibia, on its medial side. This small bony outgrowth has a diameter of 5mm and is raised 2mm above the surface of the bone. This area of the tibia is subcutaneous and has little protection from the minor traumas often incurred in everyday activities. It is likely that this exostosis is the result of some such minor trauma.

Table 4.4—Long bone measurements.

44. Parish of Kildangan, barony of Offaly West. SMR KD027-046——. IGR 268058 206431.
45. The parish is approximately 3km by 1km in size.
46. The bones were found at a depth of 0.55m below the topsoil.
47. GrA-24336