1990:096 - *'Clonmacnoise', Clonmacnoise, Offaly

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Offaly Site name: *'Clonmacnoise', Clonmacnoise

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 5:3-27 Licence number:

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

Site type: Early monastic site

ITM: E 600851m, N 730628m

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

A rescue excavation, lasting seven weeks, was carried out in the Steeple Garden, immediately north and north-east of the area excavated in 1989 in advance of a visitor centre development.

Two of the cuttings were situated along a gravel ridge running west from the round tower. Here natural sand and gravel came to within 0.2m of the surface in places. Postmedieval cultivation furrows aligned north-south were the most recent features and these cut across a hearth area near which crucible fragments and a stick pin were found. There was also a pit lucre, which produced a penny of King John, and a kiln. The latter consisted of two pits joined together by a flue lined with upright stones. Hundreds of broken pieces of fired daub with wattle impressions in them were found in the kiln and a few pockets of large fish scales were found among these fragments.

Further west towards the end of the gravel ridge a dark layer containing much iron slag was excavated. South of this and overlapping with cuttings opened in 1985 and 1989 a series of superimposed stony surfaces were uncovered. The uppermost of these produced medieval pottery in 1985. A bronze tweezers was found here and, on a lower surface, a small decorated bronze hook ending in an animal’s head with a few links of a chain attached. Part of a cross-slab and a fragment of a decorated quern were recovered from post- medieval deposits here.

A small area around the North Cross in the graveyard was also excavated. The ground around the cross was badly disturbed by burials but the cross base, which had been totally hidden beneath the surface, was uncovered. Unlike the cross shaft the base is made of sandstone, is basically round in plan and may originally have been the bottom stone of a mill, Two shallow steps have been cut into its upper surface, forming rough squares in plan, and at the corners of the outer square there are vertical grooves cut into the circumference of the stone in a manner reminiscent of the base of St John’s Cross at Iona.