1989:001 - Ballygailey, Antrim

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Antrim Site name: Ballygailey

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

Author: D.DA. Simpson, Dept. of Archaeology, Queen's University, Belfast.

Site type: Neolithic settlement site

ITM: E 737322m, N 907489m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.896275, -5.859107

The site was discovered during fieldwalking in August 1989 and was represented by a surface scatter of Neolithic pottery and flint artefacts spread over several acres. A small-scale excavation in the area of greatest concentration was undertaken in August and September 1989 on behalf of the Historic Monuments and Buildings Branch, DOE (NI) in advance of housing development. An area of 237 sq. m was examined. Much of the topsoil had been mechanically cleared prior to excavation. Immediately below this horizon was a prepared surface consisting of cobble stones and occasional larger flat slabs up to 0.6m in length. The interstices between and on this surface were packed with clay containing large quantities of artefacts. Smaller quantities of finds came from beneath this ‘floor’. The only subsoil feature was a small pit 0.5m in diameter and 0.2m deep containing charcoal (sample submitted for C-14 determination), nine grains of barley (Hordeum spp), hazelnut fragments (Corylus), flint artefacts and pottery.Some 2070 sherds of pottery were recovered from surface collection, topsoil and the occupation floor. All appear to be of Neolithic character. Of this assemblage there are 278 rim and 75 shoulder sherds and a further 73 decorated fragments. The material falls into three groups in terms of fabric: 1. Shouldered bowls, some of which are highly burnished and belong to the Lyles Hill and Ballymarlagh styles; 2. Coarse plain ware related to (Ó Ríordáin’s Lough Gur Class II pottery; and 3. Decorated bowls. The predominant technique is whipped cord and maggot impressions and these sherds are of a uniformly coarse fabric. A small sub-group may be represented by several finer sherds bearing narrow incised lines.In addition to large numbers of struck flakes and debitage, the lithic assemblage includes 1240 retouched flints of which 850 are recognisable artefacts. The largest group of tools are scrapers of various forms (158 end scrapers, 78 side scrapers, 35 hollow scrapers, 82 notched scrapers and 420 miscellaneous scrapers). Other forms represented are axes (3), adzes (5), sickles/knives (5), javelin heads (5) and a single leaf-shaped arrowhead. Two definite and 9 possible Bann Flakes also occurred. The majority exhibit some degree of patination from white to reddish brown and in the case of a number of scrapers initial retouching has been followed by patination and then further retouching.Other lithic material included 18 flakes of porcellanite and 10 further polished fragments of axes. Also recovered from the site were 20 pieces of pitchstone occurring as small lumps or flakes.The site is clearly a major flint-working centre possibly associated with the products of the flint-mining site on Ballygally Hill 1.5 km to the north-east. It is hoped to carry out a second season of excavation in 1990.