1990:095 - Clonfinlough, Offaly

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Offaly Site name: Clonfinlough

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

Author: Aonghus Moloney, Irish Archaeological Wetland Unit, Dept. of Archaeology, University College, Dublin.

Site type: Palisaded Enclosure

ITM: E 603350m, N 729228m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.313315, -7.949726

The site at Clonfinlough was discovered in an area of Bord na Móna bog as a result of peat harvesting during the summer of 1990 and a three week excavation took place in October of the same year. The site is located immediately south of the current shore of Finlough in an area of poorly humified peat. To the south of the site there is a large expanse of raised bog, and the site is located in what would have been the original lake edge before it was extensively drained. The monastic site of Clonmacnoise lies less than 3 kilometres to the west.

Initial cleaning of the area revealed a palisade of ash posts, roughly oval in shape and 50m by 45m in length and breadth. In nearly every case, the tops of the posts had been damaged by machinery and the site generally was in poor condition. The palisade posts averaged 0.l5m to 0.2m in diameter and all were ash. The posts were placed 0.15m to 0.3m apart and were more likely to have been for protection and stability of the enclosed area rather than for preventing water from entering the interior. Further examination revealed that the palisade did not form a complete oval but was open towards an area that was originally part of the lake. A small section of the palisade was excavated and this revealed that a palisade trench had been dug in certain areas to accommodate the posts but this was not the case for the entire structure.

Several interior structures could be seen, both on the surface of the bog and also in the sections of the drains, Given that the water table rose dramatically during the first week of excavation and partially submerged the site, it was decided to concentrate on those features that would be exposed over the winter. Initial clearance of these features revealed two circular platforms, both of which had been bisected by drains and were similar in appearance and construction. The smaller platform was 8.5m in diameter whereas the larger was 9.Sm in diameter. Both were constructed of a timber foundation upon which were placed flagstones and gravel. The timber foundation was composed of a layer of hazel, birch and ash brushwood upon which were placed ash roundwood timbers, placed in a regular arrangement. Several superimposed layers of split oak and ash timbers were placed on top of the foundation and these supported a layer of flagstones with occasional areas of gravel. This complex structure was designed to give a dry occupation level above the damp ground. Given that the centre of each of the platforms was cut away by drains, it was difficult to establish whether the structures were roofed or not. Evidence for a double wattle wall was found on both platforms. This was constructed of hazel rods which were woven around hazel and ash posts. In one instance, the remains of a form of daub or vegetative covering was found. This wall, in association with numerous other posts found around the structure, could have borne a sizeable weight but a centre post may also have been required for a roof.

Evidence of an occupation level was only present on the larger platform. This was composed of a layer of ash and crushed stone and a small amber bead 14mm in diameter, was found close to the remains of a hearth. Numerous sherds of coarse-ware pottery (three pots) were also recovered from this level. Timbers from the larger platform subsequently yielded a dendrochronological date of 908 ± 9 BC. It is hoped to return in 1991.