- AGHNASKEAGH, CO. CAVAN, Cavan

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Cavan Site name: AGHNASKEAGH, CO. CAVAN

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR CV042-046001 Licence number: E1038

Author: EAMONN P. KELLY

Site type: Graves of indeterminate date

ITM: E 648261m, N 783646m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.800121, -7.267416

Introduction
In October 1992 during reclamation work on farmland a number of human burials were discovered near Mount Nugent, Co. Cavan. The site consisted of a low rise, approximately 2m above the surrounding surface and approximately 20m in diameter at the top. The bones were recovered at a depth of 0.15–0.2m when the bulldozer driver dug into the centre of the mound. The following day bones were found around the perimeter of the raised area. The discovery was reported to the Gardaí at Kilnaleck, who visited the site and then informed the NMI. An investigation was carried out by Eamonn Kelly. The human remains were examined by Barra Ó Donnabháin.

Location (Fig. 6.4)
The site was in the townland of Aghnaskeagh in south County Cavan, approximately 4km north of the border with County Meath.5 It was located at an altitude of 60–70m above sea level, just over 1km east of the eastern shore of Lough Sheelin and 2km south of Mount Nugent village. There is a local tradition of a burial mound in the area, and the site was known to older generations as ‘the Graveyard Field’.


Fig. 6.4 —Location map, Aghnaskeagh, Co. Cavan.

The site consisted of a mound approximately 30m by 20m across. The bulldozer had made two cuttings: cutting n plan measured 40m by 8.5m by 0.15–0.2m deep and extended over the southern side of the mound. Cutting A was aligned north-east/south-west and measured 4m by 2m wide by 0.4m deep (Fig. 6.5). Human remains were recovered from both of these cuttings. The burials appear to have been placed in simple dug graves without any stone lining. The level of disturbance was such that it is not clear whether the burials were extended.

Comment
All of the burials were apparently aligned west/east, with the heads to the west. The sample from cutting A contained the remains of at least three individuals: two adults—one probably female—and one adolescent (1992:44). The latter had porotic hyperostosis—probably the result of iron-deficiency anaemia. The sample from cutting B contained the remains of at least eight individuals: four adults, two adolescents, a child aged between five and seven years and an infant who was probably less than one year old at the time of death. The material appears to represent a subsample of a normal graveyard population. In the absence of any associated finds or other evidence it is not possible to suggest a date for these burials.

HUMAN REMAINS
BARRA Ó DONNABHÁIN

Introduction
Five different collections of bones (1992:44) were submitted for analysis. These were obtained


Fig. 6.5—Plan of site, Aghnaskeagh, Co. Cavan.

Cutting A
This small collection of bones contained the remains of at least three individuals. Two of these were adults, one of whom was a female. The third individual was an adolescent, probably aged between fourteen and seventeen years. The bones were extremely fragmentary and most elements of all three skeletons were missing. One small fragment of animal bone was included in the collection.

Pathology
Fragments of seven vertebrae were identified among the remains. One of these belonged to the adolescent, while the remaining six were parts of adult skeletons. There was evidence of degenerative joint disease on the adult bones. This condition is the cumulative result of everyday strains to the back and probably reflects physically active lifestyles. One skull fragment had evidence of severe porotic hyperostosis. This condition is generally accepted as being the result of iron-deficiency anaemia. Iron deficiency in the blood (hypoferraemia) may be an adaptive response to a heavy disease load and/or micro-organism invasion.

Cutting B
This relatively small collection of bones contained the remains of at least six individuals. Three of these were adults; two were adolescents who were probably aged between ten and fifteen years at the time of their death, while one was a juvenile who probably died between the ages of five and seven years. It was not possible to arrive at a more accurate assessment of the adults’ ages at death. One of these was probably female and one was probably male. It was not possible to determine the sex of the third adult. The remains were in a very fragmentary state and some individuals were represented by only a few pieces of bone. Four large fragments of animal bone were found with the remains.

Pathology
The remains were so fragmentary that most joints of the body of any one individual were not available for inspection. The remains of the right scapulae were found. One of these belonged to an adult individual who was probably female. The glenoid had bone changes indicative of moderately severe osteoarthritis.

Bones exposed in heavy rains in cutting B
Three small boxes of bones had the above label. One box contained mostly skull fragments, while the other two contained mostly long bone fragments. The skull fragments represented the remains of at least four adults and a juvenile. One of the two collections of long bones represented the remains of at least four individuals: two adult males, two adolescents (aged ten to fifteen years and fifteen to seventeen years respectively) and an infant who was probably less than one year old at the time of death. The other collection of long bones contained the remains of four individuals: two adults, an adolescent aged between twelve and seventeen years and an infant. It seems likely that the latter two bone collections represent the same individuals. These remains could be from the same individuals noted in the material from cutting B, which had a minimum number of individuals (MNI) of six. If this is the case, the MNI for cutting B is raised to eight: four adults, two adolescents, one five- to seven-year-old child and one infant.

Teeth
Portions of five jaws (MNI = 4) were found and are detailed below. Tooth positions that are blank indicate that the particular portion of alveolar bone was not available for inspection; teeth in italics were missing post-mortem, while teeth in bold were lost ante-mortem. A plus (+) sign over (maxillary) or under (mandibular) a tooth position indicates the presence of a chronic dental abscess; the letter U in a similar position indicates that the tooth was present but unerupted; the letter C in this position indicates the presence of caries in the tooth, while the letter A in such a position indicates that the tooth was congenitally absent.

It was not possible to determine the sex of this adult. The third molars were congenitally absent. There was a caries cavity on the buccal margin of the lower left second molar. The teeth had moderate deposits of dental calculus and all teeth had moderate amounts of attrition. There were periodontal bone defects around the lower right canine.

This mandible probably belonged to an adult male. None of the teeth had caries. The teeth had large deposits of calculus. The molars had a moderate degree of wear with dentine exposure while, on the anterior teeth, this was restricted to the enamel. There were periodontal bone defects at the following tooth positions:

These remains were from a juvenile who was probably aged between thirteen and fourteen years at the time of death. None of the teeth had caries. There was little attrition, though the teeth had a moderate amount of calculus.

This jaw fragment came from an older adult who may have been female. Chronic dental abscesses occurred around the roots of all these teeth except for the first premolar. Those at the second premolar and molar had healed by the time of death, but the presence of periostitis indicated that the lesion at the canine was active at the time of death.

It was not possible to determine the sex of this adult. There was a large chronic dental abscess cavity at the roots of the first molar.

Pathology
The only pathological change noted in these fragmentary remains was the presence of cribra orbitalia in the orbits of the three individuals (two adults and one of the adolescents). This condition is also thought to be the result of iron-deficiency anaemia. One of the adults had osteoarthritic changes in the posterior joints of the five lower cervical vertebrae.

Conclusions
This material was extremely fragmentary and mixed and it clearly represents only a small portion of the total number of skeletons in the collection. Cutting A had an MNI of three, while that of cutting B is eight. It must be remembered that this is a minimum count and the real total for the two samples could be much higher. The sample contained the remains of adults of both sexes and children of all ages. The material appears to represent a jumbled subsample of a normal graveyard population.

5. Parish of Kilbride, barony of Clanmahon. SMR CV042-046001-. IGR 248320 283630.