1991:107 - RAFFIN FORT, Raffin, Meath

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Meath Site name: RAFFIN FORT, Raffin

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 11:41 Licence number:

Author: Conor Newman

Site type: Ceremonial enclosure

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 681933m, N 782815m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.788454, -6.756593

The third season of excavation was carried out over eight weeks during the summer of 1991. Carbon 14 estimates unavailable for inclusion in Excavations 1990 corroborated the evidence of Iron Age and Late Bronze Age phases originally postulated on the basis of stratigraphic and finds analysis.

Five phases are thus far recognised and there is preliminary evidence for a further two. The earliest definitive phase is evidenced by a narrow palisade trench running in a north- south arc across the interior of the site. Closely-set, large flat packing stones, inserted from both sides of the trench, suggest that the timbers of the palisade were contiguous and, moreover, were split planks rather than round posts. While the width of the trench remains constant throughout its length, the occurrence of an additional row of packing stones near the centre of the site suggests that the palisade too doubled-up in the centre of the site. A human phalange and a polished stone disc were found in the fill of the trench. The feature compares well with a linear palisade trench of Neolithic date at Knowth, Co. Meath (Eogan 1984, 219-27). Naturally, the comparison does not imply contemporaneity. Finally a number of layers are delimited by the palisade trench demonstrating that it acted as an artificial boundary.

Phase Two is evidenced by a series of U- and V-sectioned trenches. Two trenches, one of which is cut into the fill of the other, run in a north-south arc, parallel to the linear palisade trench of Phase One. Two further U-sectioned trenches, again with one cut into the fill of the other, run east-west across the site terminating short of the former two. The latter pair cut through the Phase One palisade trench and are in turn cut by the foundation trench of the round house belonging to Phase Four, thus fixing them stratigraphically. No direct dating evidence is forthcoming.

Phase Three is evidenced as an arc of posts - if projected as a circle, enclosing an area of some 13m diameter - and a series of pits. The posts are driven into the fill of one of the north-south trenches that belong to Phase Two. It is not certain to which phase all of the pits belong, however, those occurring in the immediate vicinity of the (Phase Four) house, with the notable exception of a large, shallow pit in the centre of the house, are demonstrably earlier than it; others are demonstrably later than the palisade trench of Phase One. Two (and possibly three) small circular pits, which occur outside but equidistant from the arc of posts, are contemporary: a deposit of richly organic material in the centre of each suggests that they held large posts that rotted in situ. C14 estimations (UB-3436) calibrated to 1500-800 B.C. (exclusive of 'old wood factor') tally with the Late Bronze Age dare previously suggested on the basis of coarse pottery, recovered from a layer which has been delimited by the arc of posts.

Preliminary evidence suggests that the fosse and internal bank enclosing the site were erected during this phase. However, it is possible that stratigraphy crucial to this question has been erased by bulldozer activity in 1988.

C14 estimates (UB-3435) of 30 BC-AD 607 (exclusive of 'old wood factor'), place Phase Five in the Late Iron Age period. This dating accords well with that suggested for the bronze fibula found within the round house and two diagnostic blue glass beads which may also belong to this phase. The round house, 9m in diameter, has its entrance in the south-east. There are no habitation layers in the interior and it is therefore uncertain whether or not the large pit in the centre is contemporary with the use of the house. A portion of the foundation trench of a second round structure was uncovered to the south of the large round house; preliminary evidence suggests that the two are contemporary.

Stratigraphical evidence at present suggests that a counterscarp feature running north-south, which effectively divides the site into two unequal parts, is contemporary with the Phase Five round house. However, in shearing-off the top of the counterscarp bank the bulldozer may have removed evidence that would otherwise indicate that the counterscarp feature is later. The counterscarp feature traverses the fosse encircling the site in the north-east quadrant, indicating that the counterscarp feature is later. The end of Phase Five is marked by the deposition of a thin layer of stones which were scattered over most of the interior of the site.

Reference: Eogan, G. 1984. Excavations at Knowth 1, Royal Irish Academy, Dublin.

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