1991:099 - 'The Deserted Village', Slievemore (Toir), Achill Island, Mayo

County: Mayo Site name: 'The Deserted Village', Slievemore (Toir), Achill Island

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

Author: Eoin Halpin, Archaeological Development Services Ltd., The Power House, Pigeon House Harbour, Dublin 4 and Theresa McDonald St 0 'Hara's Hill. Tullamo

Site type: Multi-phase landscape

ITM: E 462981m, N 807512m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.998649, -10.089930

The Deserted Village, which dates at least to the famine period, lies on the south-west facing slopes of Slievemore Mountain (2204 ft) and stretches for about 1.5km hugging the 200 ft contour. Access to the village is best gained via the relatively recent trackway which passes to the south of the modern graveyard at Slievemore, with a more ancient trackway linking Slievemore to the village of Dooagh. The site consists of some 74 buildings constructed in two distinct groups, Toir or the west village and Toir Reabhach the east village. The two parts are separated by an open area of ground some I 80m wide in which only two small outbuildings, constructed fairly recently, now stand. The most striking feature of both settlements are the dominant south-facing gables of the houses which stand in many cases to their original height of some 2.3m. Over 90% of the surviving houses are aligned north-south parallel to each other with their long axes running downhill.

It is important when looking at the site of the Deserted Village to remember that the houses and field systems are simply the latest phase of occupation which has taken place on the mountain side. There are at least six known examples of possible Bronze Age hut platforms on Slievemore which are fairly evenly distributed across the lower slopes of the southwest facing flanks of the mountain along the 400ft contour. Although awaiting further survey it appears that each hut is situated within its own field system. It is interesting to note that as the pre-bog walls associated with the hut platforms run down slope from the 400 ft contour they meet and become part of the field systems associated with the deserted village, indicating that farming of this hill side has continued, possibly uninterrupted, from the Bronze Age.

The 1991 season on Slievemore concentrated on one particular house and its relationship with all of the houses around. Close examination and recording of the walls gave a particular insight into the complexity of the building techniques employed, the discovery of pathways and drainage gullies around the house added greatly to our knowledge of the spatial organisation of houses, and finally the survey of the surrounding landscape revealed how the best results with regard to house design and siting were achieved even in the difficult terrain around Slievemore.

The project is due to continue in the summer of 1992.