NMI Burial Excavation Records


Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR WX007-055 Licence number: E1184


Site type: Early Bronze Age graves

ITM: E 715715m, N 659213m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.671716, -6.289010

In late February 1989 an encrusted urn and a pit containing a cremation and a vase urn were discovered in a disused gravel quarry at Gorey Corporationlands, near Gorey, Co. Wexford. The remains were exposed after the quarry face collapsed as a result of rainy weather; some schoolboys playing in the quarry noticed the bone and pottery and removed the vessel. The quarry was in private ownership but had not been used for approximately ten years and was subsequently used as a dump. It was in the process of being sold to Gorey Vocational Educational College and it was intended to level the quarry. The find was reported to the Museum by Fr John V. Gahan, parish priest in Gorey, and a rescue excavation was undertaken

Fig. 3.221—Location map, Gorey Corporationlands, Co. Wexford.

by Raghnall Ă“ Floinn. The area around the burial had been stripped of topsoil, which had been removed and piled parallel to the quarry face, about 7m back from it to the west. There may have been two pit graves here originally, one containing the vase urn and a second containing the encrusted urn, but no trace of the pit containing the encrusted urn was found. Consequently this report treats the discovery as a single pit. The human remains were examined by Laureen Buckley.

Location (Fig. 3.221)
The site was in the townland of Gorey Corporationlands, north-west Co. Wexford, on the eastern outskirts of Gorey town.359 It was situated at an altitude of 50–60m above sea level, just a few metres east of the Gorey–Arklow railway line. The area surrounding Gorey has frequently produced early Bronze Age remains, for example the cist burial at Kilmurry, just 2km north of Gorey town (this volume, pp 586–93).

Description of site
The quarry face was very disturbed and only the remains of one pit were located. It was subcircular in plan but it was not possible to estimate its dimensions, as the eastern edge had collapsed. The floor of the pit lay at a depth of 0.35m below the present surface and the pit measured 0.5m in width. The area of the find had been completely disturbed by the finders. Preliminary excavation of the pit revealed displaced sherds of the vase urn but no sherds of the encrusted urn were recovered from here. Further excavation uncovered sherds of the rim of the vase urn in situ resting on the base of the pit, but only a few fragments of cremated bone were found. No trace of a second pit containing the encrusted urn was visible, but according

Fig. 3.222—Ceramic vessels, Gorey Corporationlands, Co. Wexford.

to the finders the encrusted urn was inverted when found. Both urns appear to have been located immediately side by side and it is possible that both were buried in the same pit. The cremation deposit, the remains of an adult female (1989:43) aged between 26 and 44 years at the time of death, would appear to be associated with the encrusted urn. It is difficult to explain how almost two-thirds of the vase urn is missing while the encrusted urn was recovered almost intact. It is possible that the vase urn burial was the earlier of the two and that the insertion of the encrusted urn burial damaged the earlier vessel.

Vase urn, 1989:42 (Fig. 3.222)
Upper portion of a vase urn. The remaining pieces (nine body sherds) are decorated with horizontal bands of incised lines in the form of lattices and chevrons. Four separate bands of decoration are visible on the remainder of the vessel. Each of the bands of decoration is bordered by a single incised horizontal line. The uppermost band consists of incised vertical lines, but too little of this survives to see whether there was further decoration. Below this is a band, approximately 5.9cm thick, of incised lattice decoration. Below this again is a zone of incised chevron pattern, approximately 4.8cm thick, formed of a number of parallel incised lines. Very little survives of the final zone of decoration but it appears to have consisted of incised lines, possibly a lattice decoration. The sherds have a burnished appearance externally.
Dimensions: T wall 1.4cm.

Encrusted urn, 1989:44 (Fig. 3.222)
The sherds consist of the upper portion, including part of the rim, of an encrusted urn. The decoration consists of vertical linear encrustations joined by shorter oblique lines. The neck is short and the shoulder bears encrusted bosses. The applied decoration is further decorated with short, oblique, incised strokes. The ware is fine and has a burnished appearance externally.
Dimensions: surviving H 24cm (from rim to lower body); T wall 1.5cm.

The human remains from this site have not been dated. The vase urn is similar in type and style to the vessel from Ballygillistown (this volume, pp 560–3), which is a stage 2 vessel, c. 1930/20–c. 1830 BC. The encrusted urn is similar to stage 1 encrusted urns, the dating range for which overlaps with the stage 2 vase urns, confirming the probability of the occurrence of these types together either in the same pit or on the same cemetery site (Brindley 2007, 328). Only one individual was identified in the cremation deposit but it is not clear whether this was divided between both urns as so little bone was found in situ.


Sample 1989:43 consisted of 656 fragments of cremated bone weighing a total of 648g. The bone was a brown colour owing to the surrounding soil but the basic underlying colour was white. It is well-calcined bone with numerous horizontal cracks and fissuring on the surface, as well as some warping of the larger fragments of long bone.

Table 3.134—Fragmentation of bone, 1989:43.

The fragmentation of the bone is shown in Table 3.134, with the largest fragment being 118mm long. It can be seen that there is a significant proportion of very large fragments, and the larger fragments more than 15mm in length represent 96% of the cremated remains. The proportion of fragments less than 10mm in length is very small, and therefore it is highly unlikely that the bone was deliberately crushed after collection from the pyre. The disturbed nature of the site may have meant that some of the smaller fragments were lost, but there are 618g of large fragments, which represents a significant sample, even though it is less than the 1,600–3,600g expected from a full adult cremation.

Identifiable bone
The lack of crushing of the bone is reflected in the amount of bone that could be identified. A total of 475g (73% of the total bone) was identified (Table 3.135).

Table 3.135—Proportion of identified bone, 1989:43.

Table 3.136—Summary of identified bone, 1989:43.

Table 3.136 summarises the main parts of the skeleton identified from this sample. It can be seen that the proportions of the various parts of the skeleton are very similar to what is expected from a normal cremation, although there is a slightly greater amount of skull and axial skeleton at the expense of the lower limb. The amount of femur, which is usually the easiest bone to identify, was smaller than usual for a sample of this size and there were no foot phalanges present. This indicates that some bone was lost owing to the disturbance of the site.

Description of identifiable features of the bones
A section of the squamous portion of the frontal bone with the crista frontalis visible was present. There was also a fragment of the inferior part of the orbit. There were several fragments of parietal bone, including the posterior part of a right parietal bone. One large fragment of the squamous part of the occipital bone with the external occipital protuberance was present. The protuberance was fairly well pronounced. There was another piece from the left side of the occipital bone, which had part of the lambdoid suture present. These two fragments could be joined together and were part of the one bone. Part of the basal occipital bone was also present. The left mandibular fossa of the temporal bone and part of the root of the zygomatic arch were present. The squamous suture was visible. One petrous portion of the temporal bone was also present. The right zygomatic bone was incomplete. Two mandibular condyles and one tooth root, probably an incisor, were all that remained of the mandible.

The right side of the neural arch of the first cervical vertebra was present. The body and the left superior articular surface of the second cervical vertebra were present and there was one body and part of an arch of a lower cervical vertebra. There were two complete thoracic bodies and four fragmented bodies, as well as some posterior articular surfaces. Five lumbar vertebrae were present. These included three complete lumbar bodies with the superior posterior articular surfaces present and two fragmented bodies, along with a few disarticulated articular surfaces.

Several rib fragments were present; some were large and some were very small. At least seven left ribs and one right rib were included. Four of the left and one of the right fragments had the transverse articular surfaces present.

There was a large fragment of left ilium with the auricular area and a wide sciatic notch. Most of the left ischium was present with the inferior part of the acetabulum. The left pubic bone was almost complete. From the right side of the pelvis there was a large fragment with the auricular area, the sciatic notch and a large part of the acetabulum present. A small part of the right ischium was present, as well as part of the right pubic bone.

Most of the body of the first sacral vertebra was present, as well as the left posterior articular surface and part of the ala. The body of the second sacral vertebra was present and there was a small part of the body of the third sacral vertebra.

Scapulae and clavicles
The inferior half of the glenoid area from a left scapula and part of the lateral border and inferior border were present. The lateral half of a right clavicle shaft was present, as well as the medial joint surfaces from at least two clavicles. There was also part of the lateral end of a left clavicle.

The distal third of a left humerus with the lateral half of the shaft and most of the distal joint surface, including the capitulum and most of the trochlea, was present. There was also the proximal third of a shaft and some smaller fragments, including the proximal shaft from a left bone. In addition, there was a partial distal joint end from a right humerus with the medial end of the trochlea present.

The distal third of a right radius with the ulnar notch visible, as well as part of the inferior distal articular surface, was present. There was also a small fragment of a radius head with the ulnar surface visible, as well as some shaft fragments.

Mostly all shaft fragments, including parts from near the distal end of at least two ulnae as well as a fragment of a distal joint surface.

Carpals, metacarpals and phalanges
One incomplete carpal bone remained and there were the partial shafts of at least five metacarpals, including two distal ends. Two almost complete proximal, two complete middle and two complete distal hand phalanges were present.

There was a large fragment of the left femur with part of the neck and the proximal shaft with the greater and lesser trochanters. The fragment was white and fissured on the outside but the internal structure was complete and barely cremated. Part of the proximal shaft and the trochanter areas from another femur were also present. There were also several fragments of shaft, some of which had the linea aspera present. Part of a femur head and part of a distal joint surface also survived.

This included the largest fragment in the sample, which was part of the proximal shaft of a left tibia showing part of the posterior surface with the nutrient foramen, as well as part of the posterior border and part of the lateral surface. The anterior tubercle from the left bone was also present. Other fragments of shaft were present with the medial and lateral borders visible. There was also part of a proximal and part of a distal joint surface.

Mainly fragments of shaft, including a fragment near the distal third. Part of a distal joint surface and fragments from a proximal joint surface were also present.

At least one calcaneum, one talus and one cuboid were present. A first metatarsal and one other metatarsal were also present. There were no foot phalanges remaining.

Minimum number of individuals
Since there was no repetition of skeletal elements, the number of individuals present is one.

Skeletal pathology
There was a slight amount of osteophytic lipping all around the inferior edge of a lower lumbar vertebra. A Schmorl’s node was present in the superior surface of the body of another lumbar vertebra.
There was a slight amount of green staining on the outer surface of the occipital bone, as if it had been in contact with metal.

Age and sex
In this cremation the pelvis was virtually complete, and the wide sciatic notch, the wide subpubic angle, sub-pubic concavity and ventral arc are all indicative of a female individual. Since all the epiphyses were fused this was obviously an adult. There was only a slight degree of degenerative change on a lumbar vertebra so it is unlikely to have been an older adult. It can therefore be stated that this was the skeleton of a middle adult female aged 26–44 years at the time of death.

Summary and conclusions
This sample appears to represent the remains of one middle adult female. Most of the skeleton was well represented in the proportion that one would expect, apart from a slightly smaller amount of femur than normal. As the burial had been disturbed, it was unlikely that all the bone was collected. There was evidence that the individual had carried out heavy manual labour and probably as a result had developed degenerative joint disease in the spine.

359. Parish of Kilmakilloge, barony of Gorey. SMR WX007-055——. IGR 315790 159170.