1991:056 - IORRAS BEAG THIAR, Port na Feadoige (Dogs Bay), Galway

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Galway Site name: IORRAS BEAG THIAR, Port na Feadoige (Dogs Bay)

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

Author: Erin Gibbons

Site type: Settlement site

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 469179m, N 738026m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.376207, -9.966153

A rescue excavation was undertaken at Port na Feadoige, Roundstone, from February to May 1991 in advance of conservation work on the sand dunes there. Excavation work was hampered for several weeks due to weather conditions. The wind factor was the most difficult one on this exposed and eroding dune system. The excavation was sponsored by the Office of Public Works, Galway Co. Council and the Connemara Environmental Education Centre. Labour was provided by the FÁS conservation scheme.

Several intermittent soil horizons were identified along the western exposed face of the Dogs Bay/Gurteen dune system and some surface features were also visible throughout the dunes. Although several gaps and blowouts have appeared in the dune face over time, extensive stretches of soil containing settlement debris are still visible particularly in the north-west and south-west areas of the dune overlooking Dogs Bay.

Three areas were selected for excavation:
1. An upper level platform.
2. A pit feature exposed in section at a lower level.
3. The old ground surface. All three areas are located in the south-west of the dunes overlooking Dogs Bay.
Areas 1 and 3 were partly excavated and samples were taken from Area 2.

Area 1
The upper level platform consists of a thick band of sandy soil containing occupation debris. It is located on an exposed shelf approximately 3m above present beach level with high eroding sand banks to the north and south. This horizon slopes from west to east where it then becomes submerged by accumulations of sand. At this level a 10m x 15m area was investigated close to the western exposed dune face. A well-constructed dry stone wall, orientated north-south, was exposed during the excavation which defined the eastern limit of the excavated area. To the west of the wall a corn-drying kiln was excavated. Other features included a surface pit containing sea shells, a pit containing ash and charcoal, and a children's burial ground. Finds included a saddle quern, a hammer stone, carbonised oats and fish and animal bones. Fragments of human bone were also recovered from the eroding dune face and a cache of carbonised oats was also excavated from the same area.

The kiln had been cut into the sandy soil. It was constructed of cut stone granite. The kiln was intact and consisted of a flue which extended into a stone-lined feature which was bowl shaped. In the base of the bowl carbonised oats and fish bone were recovered. The surface of most of the granite had been fire-shattered. The kiln was probably abandoned when the stones began to flake from frequent use.

The bowl of the kiln had been backfilled with granite boulders and soil. One of the stones used in the fill was identified as a large fragment of a broken saddle quern. The site was later used as a burial ground. Three children's burials were excavated. One of them had been placed in the flue of the kiln.

The dry stone wall already mentioned survived to a height of 1m where excavated (only a few surface stones were visible before excavation). The surface remains of the wall could be followed as far as the high sand bank to the south of the site and was again visible beyond the sand bank approximately 40m to the south of the kiln area. The wall was built on a granite plinth and appeared to sit on a lower soil horizon suggesting that it was not chronologically related to the kiln feature.

Area 2
The dune face extends for approximately 150m south-west of the upper level platform area before it begins to curve sharply to the west for another 25m-35m. Up to three separate soil horizons are visible in section throughout this area. The lowest soil horizon is located approximately 0.5m above strand level and contains extensive occupation debris. Animal and fish bone, shell deposits, burnt stone and charcoal, postholes and several pits are visible in section. Samples of shell were taken from one of the pits.

Area 3
Two trial trenches were opened up and excavated on strand level at the dune face in order to identify human activity prior to the build-up of the dune. A thumb nail scraper made of chert and some worked flint were excavated. These were found in association with two dry stone walls. They were located on a thin layer of soil above boulder clay. Deer antler was found close to Area 3 in an unstratified context during the excavation and an unstratified limestone blade resembling a skaill type knife was also found in this area shortly before the excavation.

Of interest also is a partly buried horizon of peat which is visible along the shoreline to the south-west and west of the dune face.

In conclusion it appears that at least three separate soil horizons are extant in the Dogs Bay/Gurteen Doon system and their relative importance in terms of human activity and dune development has yet to be determined. However, based on present and previous research and excavation it appears that the intermittent human activity has occurred along this dune system from the late Neolithic through to the late medieval period.

Tír an Fhia, Leitir Móir, Co. na Gaillimhe