1991:098 - CÉIDE FIELDS, Glenulra and Behy, Mayo

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Mayo Site name: CÉIDE FIELDS, Glenulra and Behy

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

Author: Gretta Byrne

Site type: Field system

Period/Dating: Neolithic (4000BC-2501 BC)

ITM: E 504971m, N 840004m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.299954, -9.459960

A pre development excavation was undertaken in the area of the buildings and access road of the Céide Fields Visitor Centre which is being constructed within the area of the extensive pre-bog Neolithic field system, and which is due for opening in 1993. A total area of 762 sq. m was excavated in addition to a 12.5m length of pre-bog wall which was already mostly destroyed during the construction of a bog access road.

Portion of a previously unknown pre-bog wall was uncovered in the vicinity of a new access road, and fortunately this was not in the direct path of the roadway and was not disturbed by the development. This was, like the other uncovered walls on the hillside, a substantial but collapsed dry-stone field wall built on the pre-bog surface, consisting of stones mostly over 0.2m and up to 1.05m in dimensions, of the local sandstone. It was part of a 20m long portion of wall extending diagonally between two of the main parallel walls of the coaxial field system and may be part of a small irregular field, of which there are some in this area of the site.

Such small fields may have been used for tillage which would have supplemented the main economic activity of the inhabitants at the time, which was cattle rearing on permanent pastureland. Direct evidence for tillage on the site was found in one cutting of 12m x 3m which had ploughmarks, visible as dark peaty narrow bands in the lighter mineral soil beneath the peat. A short distance away, in a separate cutting, a worn stone tip of a broken ardshare was found on the pre-bog soil surface.

A slightly meandering irregular trench, 0.35m-0.95m wide and 0.05m-0.35m deep in the sub-peat soil, was located in one cutting for a distance of 10m which proved to be a silted up stream bed running down a fairly steep slope before the peat became established. Further downslope the same feature extended into another cutting on a more gradual slope but at the lower end it could be seen that the peat had already begun to grow and was spreading uphill. The stream had cut through the peat and the silted remains survived as a wide lens up to 0.28m thick deposited over a maximum depth of 0.18m of peat.

One area of pre-bog domestic activity was uncovered although no definite structural plan could be deduced. A layer of charcoal-rich occupation type soil up to 0.2m thick was spread over an area of about 4m x 5.5m although this would originally have been larger as it had been cut through by an old roadway. A number of stones, including a lot of flat sandstone slabs up to 0.7m wide, were scattered haphazardly within this area, although in two main concentrations. They were possibly the disturbed remains of a house structure but only one small posthole was found and the charcoal soil was found to extend underneath and outside most of the stones without any clearly defined edge. This was located 130m north of the structures partially excavated in 1989 and 1990.

A range of activity was evidenced here, however, by a total of 82 lithic finds and a quantity of very poorly preserved pottery within or close to the deposit of charcoal soil. Flint was being worked as indicated by 46 pieces of debitage as well as 10 struck flakes including 4 retouched. Only 3 pieces of used chert were found here, including two convex scrapers, and 6 water rounded stones, at least some of which were used as hammerstones. The most popular type of stone, however, seemed to have been quartz as a total of 17 flakes of varying sizes were found. Most were triangular in cross-section and some had slight retouch while some also had traces of burnishing or wear on one face. The very poor condition of the pottery was due to the acidic nature of the soil, and it was not possible to identify vessel shape or size. Only one rimsherd, a plain rounded rim, could be identified.

A few isolated stray finds including the ardshare, flakes of quartz, flint and chert and two hammerstones, were also found on the pre-bog soil surface, but all the finds are likely to be Neolithic in date.

Ballycastle, Co. Mayo