1991:026 - LISLEAGH II, Lisleagh, Cork

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Cork Site name: LISLEAGH II, Lisleagh

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 27:03001 Licence number:

Author: M.A. Monk, Dept. of Archaeology, University College Cork

Site type: Ringfort- rath

Period/Dating: Medieval (AD 400-AD 1600)

ITM: E 517767m, N 610653m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.241467, -9.204083

Excavations at Lisleagh II this year were concentrated in the interior (Cutting I), the bank section (Cutting II), the possible entrance area (Cutting IV) and in a north-east extension of the interior cutting.

Interior cutting
A further series of stake and postholes in this trench were identified and excavated, many showing signs of having been burnt. Although the greatest concentration of these was in the northern half of the cutting, none of them formed a coherent pattern. The only relatively clearly-defined pattern was a series of widely spaced deep stakeholes and a slot trench defining a curved line in the south-west corner of the cutting. At the south end of this there is a gap in the line, although there is no evidence of door posts. There is, however, a series of stakes coming in from the gap suggesting a corridor or inturned entrance. Also, tangential to the structure but approximately 0.6m south-west of it, are two large post positions linked by a series of stake positions which represent perhaps an outer door screen or windbreak in front of the entrance.

As mentioned in last season's report (Excavations 1990, 18), a large part of the interior is covered by redeposited material of varied consistency and thickness. On the west side of the cutting the redeposited material consisted of hard packed pink clay with coarse pebbles and small stones set intermittently in it, probably representing some kind of hard standing. These deposits seem to overlie the natural unaltered B-horizon of the soil into which other earlier features seem to be dug.

On the south side of the cutting a number of curious features are possibly related to the evidence for iron-working in this area (e.g. a concentration of slag fragments). The most significant of these complexes, in particular in size, was a long trench that ran for 4m diagonally across the south-east corner of the cutting. Its upper fills may be interpreted as reduced or mineralised organic debris with frequent charcoal fragments. Below this were two distinct burnt horizons, the lower one confined to the south-west half of the feature. This layer also lay below deposits that had been firmly packed against the north side of the trench to narrow it. As well as charcoal, the burnt layers included burnt stones, small lumps of burnt clay, iron slag and ironstone.

It is significant that much of this burnt material was found closest to the area where, over the past two seasons, there has been some concentration of evidence for burning and iron-working, including a possible bowl furnace base and other similar shallow depressions.

A third feature that may also have had a connection with ironworking in this area of the site was located in the trench linking the interior to the bank and ditch cutting; it consisted of a relatively shallow curving channel-like feature, shallower and narrower towards the east and wider and deeper on the west where it continued into the side of the trench. Its backfill did not appear to relate to its original use excepting one of the primary fills, which was heavily burnt. The most primary fill, in which was a piece of slag, consisted of coarse pebbles and some small stones. Exactly what this feature represented was not clear.

The bank and ditch cutting
The main task of this season's excavations in this trench, having removed all later deposits against and features cutting the bank, was the excavations of the construction tips remaining in the much eroded and amended bank. From this it was possible to say that the bank was of simple dump construction but perhaps with some suggestion of a loose stone revetment internally. There was little else of significance in this cutting except the find of a furnace bottom within the makeup, presumably a residual item from earlier activity on the site. The old ground surface revealed little trace of human activity apart from a root setting which had charcoal in it.

Between the bank and the interior cutting some further contexts were excavated including several postholes. These are all cut into redeposited material but there is as yet no clear explanation for the wide arc of low readings which crossed this area on the resistivity survey.

Cutting IV, the possible entrance trench
Work continued in the trench laid out in the interior west perimeter of the site against the field fence in an area that on slight topographic grounds as well as resistivity results offered the most likely possibility of an entrance.

Considerable evidence of later disturbance, probably resulting from cultivation, was encountered in the south-east third of the trench. This seemed to have disrupted a late stonier deposit and turned up burnt deposits. However, quite a depth of material appeared to be present at this point in the trench. Over the rest of the cutting and particularly the northwest part of it, extending into and presumably under the field fence foundation as visible in the section, there was a concentration of redeposited natural appearing as a flattened mound. Although it appears to have been considerably levelled, with a definite curving edge to its south and east extent, it probably represents all that now remains in situ of the north terminus of a west-facing entrance,

Extension to the interior cutting
Noted on the 0S 6 inch map (27) and indicated from the resistivity survey was the presence of a souterrain in the northeast quadrant of the ringfort. Indications of its possible presence last season within the north-east corner of the interior cutting included an extensive area of mixed redeposited material and a line of voided large stones in this area of the site. Further investigation of this area in 1991 revealed a very complex series of redeposited layers, probably connected with the construction of the souterrain, but with cut features—postholes, stakeholes and slots—stratigraphically within these deposits as well as the features cut into the topmost fills already found in the area.

Following a closer interval resistivity survey along the northern edge of the trench, an extension of the main cutting was dug. Below the sod and stratigraphically below the later cultivation furrows a silt-filled depression was noted bounded on the north and south sides by linear arrangements of stones. The area was also surrounded by a series of localised spreads of charcoal. Below the later silted fill were a series of backfilled deposits, one of these later fills being cut by two driven posts. The excavation of these backfills produced a souterrain chamber revetted with slightly corbelled dry-stone walls on the north and south sides. Although the souterrain is yet to be fully excavated, the walls would appear to be set in an earth-dug trench. The chamber butt ends on the west side which has no revetment wall but which has two earth-cut steps. There is no suggestion that the corbelling of the sides continued across to form a roof, nor is there any indication that the lintel stones were used for this purpose. Apart from the surrounding burnt posts which may have had some roofing function, there is little other evidence for a roof. However, one of the lower fills of the chamber, almost directly over the base and earth cut side of the chamber, was heavily burnt, with large plates of charcoal orientated in a north-south direction. It is possible that this represented burnt roof timbers.

Finds from the souterrain included not only iron-working debris, slag, furnace bottom fragments and burnt stone, but also several metal artifacts not least an iron knife blade in the souterrain's primary deposit. Also found were two fine hone stones. A few other finds were recovered from other contexts on the site (hone stones, slag, worked flint). Samples were taken for plant remains extraction and analysis.

The excavation is set to continue in 1992.