1991:024 - KNOCKAWILLIN, Cork

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Cork Site name: KNOCKAWILLIN

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

Author: Jane O'Shaughnessy, Dept. of Archaeology, University College Cork

Site type: Fulacht fiadh

Period/Dating: Bronze Age (2200 BC-801 BC)

ITM: E 536363m, N 612053m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.256508, -8.932099

The site is located on land owned by Coillte Teoranta in Knockawillin Td., approximately 8km north-west of Newmarket, Co. Cork. The previously unrecorded fulacht fiadh was discovered in spring 1991 when a cultivation trench, 1.3m wide x 0.7m deep, bisected the mound of the fulacht fiadh, partially destroying the timber-built trough. The archaeological significance of the site was recognised by the Newmarket forestry officer who reported the discovery to the Cork Archaeological Survey. Funding was subsequently provided by the OPW for a short rescue excavation which took place over a four-week period in Sept/Oct. Excavation revealed a blackened mound of heat-shattered sandstone, a plank-built trough, a clay-lined hearth and a pathway of paving stones.

Prior to excavation the nature of the site was masked by overlying peat and by dense scrub. A series of cultivation trenches, marking an earlier phase of forestry activity, traversed the site but these were shallower than the more recent trenches and in the main, caused only superficial damage. Extensive clearance revealed that the spread of burnt stones was roughly oval, 15m x 13m, with the trough, on a north-east/south-west axis, centrally placed. The greatest concentration of mound material occurred in an arc immediately to the north and west of the trough area, reaching a maximum height of 0.5m above the original ground level. Elsewhere the mound was thinly spread, with an average height of 0.15m–0.2m. The mound was located on an island of peat which overlay a white clay subsoil and it was clear that a boggy environment was deliberately chosen for the site.

The trough pit was rectangular and steep-sided and cut through the underlying peat layer into the level of the clay subsoil. The base of the pit was lined with four oak planks. A shallow groove had been cut across the end of each of the two middle base planks to take the bottom edge of the end plank. A right-angled notch cut from the bottom corner of the northern end plank allowed it to fit snugly over the outer base plank on the west side of the trough. The sides of the trough were lined with a combination of substantial planks and thin, narrow lengths of timber. The side and base planks were held in position by timber stakes and vertically-set stone slabs. The trough was further stabilised by the construction of a low revetment wall of stone slabs against the outer walls of the trough. The width of the trough was 1.2m and the maximum depth 0.3m. The south-west end of the trough was destroyed by the cultivation trench so that the trough survives only to a length of 1.4m. The trough appears to have been self-filling.

A series of closely-spaced stone slabs, laid on the peat, provided stepping stone access to the trough on its north-west side.

The hearth was located directly opposite the trough at its south-west end. A clay base, 1.2m x 1.2m, covered the peat surface. Two stakeholes were found adjacent to the clay hearth. A dense layer of charcoal partially overlay the hearth and extended towards the trough. This layer was cut by the cultivation trench which bisected the site.

Investigation of a number of large stones which lay in the base of a shallow cultivation trench, close to the north-west limit of the mound, led to the discovery of a stone pathway. The pathway consisted of a series of overlapping stone slabs laid directly on the original peat surface. It extended for a distance of 9m from the edge of the mound westwards to a point where the peat gave way to drier, firmer ground.

Evidence for two secondary features of unknown function was also found. Immediately to the east of the hearth, a pit, 2.2m wide x 0.3m deep, which had been cut by the cultivation trench, was clearly visible in the section faces of the trench. This feature was not excavated. Its appearance in the section-face seems consistent with that of a pit cut through the peat layer to the underlying clay subsoil in a manner similar to the construction of the main trough pit. The pit was filled with mound material. Similar pits, contemporaneous with the use of the site but soon abandoned or infilled, have been found at other excavated fulacht fiadh.

A rectilinear pit-like feature, 1.6m x 1m, was found 1m north-east of the trough. It had been severely truncated by a cultivation trenchant survived only to a depth of c. 0.1m. A narrow gully or drain extended from its eastern end. This feature cut through mound material and did not penetrate the underlying peat layer. It was clearly not associated with the primary phase of activity at the site.

No artifacts were recovered during the excavation. Samples of charcoal and trough timbers were taken for dating purposes.