NMI Burial Excavation Records


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

Author: Heather A. King

Site type: Ecclesiastical enclosure

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 601050m, N 730827m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.327700, -7.984228

Excavations continued in the New Graveyard at Clonmacnoise between August and November 1991 with funding from the Office of Public Works and the permission of Offaly Co. Council (see Excavations 1990, 49).

The 1991 excavation, Cutting 3, was located beside the western perimeter of the New Graveyard, immediately to the north of the area opened last year. It was a small cutting, 6m x 4m, and the depth of deposits was between 0.75m and 2m. The primary evidence for occupation in this cutting was a series of post-pits with stone packing in the natural sand and boulders of the esker ridge. The pits would have held posts which were 0.1m-0.15m in diameter and were inserted into a maximum depth of 0.6m into natural. They may indicate the presence of a circular structure. Also at this level was a sub-circular trench enclosing a pit c. 1m in depth. Directly above the sand and boulders there was a brown layer representing the first sod above the natural sand and above this a deep layer of charcoal darkened earth. Above this charcoal layer there was evidence for part of a house in the form of a wall, a hearth and a clay floor. The wall was represented by stone foundations, three courses in height, and was built of boulders ranging in size from c. 0.2m in diameter to 0.7m. It was better faced externally than internally and may have supported a sod wall. Adjacent to the wall on the west (internally) there was a compact layer of yellow/brown clay into which a hearth was set. The hearth was approximately 3.5m to the west of the wall and consisted of a rectangular area surrounded by large stones set on edge to provide a setting for the hearth. It was filled to a depth of 0.2m with ash and the surrounding stones and earth immediately below the hearth were heat-reddened. To the east of the wall (externally) the stratigraphy was of layers of gravel and sand which may represent a path or gravelled surface immediately outside the house. Both hearth and wall were disturbed by ridge and furrow cultivation.

A circular pit, c. 2m in diameter, was cut through the floor of the 'house'. This pit may have been recut on a number of occasions and lined with peat or wood. The fill contained bones, earth, charcoal and a number of finds.

Over two hundred and sixty seven objects were recovered. The most unusual piece found this year is a bronze escutcheon with animal head which turned up beneath the wall of the house. Other objects of bronze included tweezers, dress pins, a strap end and needle. Iron objects were particularly numerous with a large number of knives, an iron escutcheon and a loop headed pin being especially noteworthy. A decorated bone pin, bone combs, a green glass bead with yellow spiral decoration, two sherds of E ware and a fragmentary crucible with a speck of gold are also worth mentioning.

Correction: In referring to the ogham stone which was found last year no mention was made of the fact that the stone had been re-used as a sharpening stone (see Manning and Moore, Archaeology Ireland Winter 1991, Vol. 5, No. 4, 10-11) and the text of last year's report in Excavations 1990, 50 should read 'The ogham stone was found at a depth of 1 m which may indicate that it was re-used as a sharpening stone in a pre-ninth century context'.

Skidoo, Ballybough, Co. Dublin