1990:072 - DUNBELL RINGFORT NO. 5, Dunbell Big, Kilkenny

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kilkenny Site name: DUNBELL RINGFORT NO. 5, Dunbell Big

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 24:10 Licence number:

Author: Beth Cassidy, Archaeological Development Services Ltd.

Site type: Ringfort- unclassified

Period/Dating: Early Medieval (AD 400-AD 1099)

ITM: E 655638m, N 652144m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.617686, -7.178355

In September 1990 Roadstone Ltd approached Archaeological Development Services Ltd to investigate a ringfort site in an area of their quarry at Dunbell, Co. Kilkenny, where they sought planning permission to extend quarrying activities.

The site was ploughed out in the last century but its location was noted on early editions of O.S. maps and in a record of ringfort destructions in the Dunbell area, as compiled by G.A. Prim for the County Kilkenny Archaeological Journal in the years 1850-1870 (now known as the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland).

A programme of remote sensing and trial trenching was instigated and by the end of September the site was known to be oval with the longer axis being east-west and measuring 50m from outer edge to outer edge of a single ditch.

The ditch surrounding the site was rock cut, being 4m wide and c. 2m deep. It is V-shaped in section and contained 1m+ of rubble fill (possibly the remnants of an original stone bank) and the rest of the fill containing some rubble, redeposited soil and animal bone. The find of an iron object which seems to be a barrel-lock key, in the lower fill of the ditch, gives a probable 8th-10th-century date for the lower ditch fill and therefore a possible Early Christian date for the ringfort settlement itself.

Internally five 3m squares were opened revealing a hearth fill in the south-west area and some other posthole features in the north and north-west. The stratigraphy is almost non-existent, with ploughsoil surviving to a depth of 0.2m-0.4m lying on bedrock over most of the site and on boulder clay in the north-west area of the site.

The absence of any depth of stratigraphy (with the exception of the ditch) has left the archaeological record as that of truncated features cutting bedrock and boulder clay. Work resumed in Nov/Dec 1990 and exposed the foundation trench of a 6m square structure and a 6.5m circular structure gully both of which respect one another but their dates will have to be determined by C14 dating. Some slag has turned up in both the square and round houses but other finds such as worked flint and chert and a small bronze ring have all come from ploughsoil.

Most importantly, in the last few days of January '91, we have uncovered two prehistoric burials. One contained a badly deteriorated vessel that would at first appear to look late Neolithic in style, the other was excavated intact and seems to be a Bronze Age food vessel. (See also Archaeology Ireland 1991 16).

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