1989:078 - 'Clonmacnois', Clonmacnois, Offaly

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Offaly Site name: 'Clonmacnois', Clonmacnois

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

Author: Conleth Manning, Office of Public Works, Dublin.

Site type: Early Christian monastic site

ITM: E 600851m, N 730628m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.325904, -7.987230

A rescue excavation lasting eleven weeks was carried out in the Steeple Garden to the west of the graveyard in advance of the construction of phase 1 of a new visitor centre and site museum. The site is situated in a hollow in the eskers, and natural deposits were at the depth of 2m in the base of the hollow.Four main phases of activity, all apparently belonging to the Early Christian period, were recognised. The earliest phase was represented by stake-holes and a layer of dumped furnace waste including iron slag and tuyere fragments. This was overlain by a sterile layer c. 0.5m thick. Above this sterile layer was a habitation surface with stake-holes and occupation refuse. This low area of the site was separated from the ridge to the south by a path or road which consisted of successive layers of gravel laid down and compacted by traffic. To the south of this road was another habitation floor with stake-holes and a habitation layer confined to the eastern half of the area opened. Preliminary analysis of the stake-holes suggests that circular houses are represented. A lot of charcoal and animal bones was recovered from this layer, but very few finds.Further sterile layers overlay these habitation deposits and a series of criss-cross furrows were cut into these layers, but these terminated on each side of the road, which continued in use. Later still, a rich humic dark layer with stones and animal bones was deposited over part of the road, and part of a two-sided comb and a bone trial piece with interlace and fretwork patterns were found in it.Further north was another, later dump of stones containing part of an octagonal limestone column of late medieval date and part of a cross slab with an inscription. Over most of the area was a depth of c.0.6m of garden soil. A small fragment of a cross slab and a second bone trial piece were recovered from disturbed contexts.