- ARDRA, CO. KILKENNY, Kilkenny

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kilkenny Site name: ARDRA, CO. KILKENNY

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR KK005-086 Licence number: E1093

Author: RAGHNALL Ó FLOINN

Site type: Early Bronze Age graves

ITM: E 653457m, N 674310m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.817105, -7.206964

Introduction
In May 1992, during the digging of a trench to lay a cable, a short cist containing an inhumation was discovered near Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny. The find was made when Telecom Éireann workers struck the capstone at a depth of 0.3–0.5m. Some of the bones were removed and then replaced in the cist prior to the Museum’s investigation of the site. The discovery was reported first to the Garda Síochána at Kilkenny, who in turn informed the NMI. The site was examined and a rescue excavation was undertaken by Raghnall Ó Floinn. The human remains from the site were analysed by Barra Ó Donnabháin.

Location (Fig. 3.86)
The site was in the townland of Ardra, north Co. Kilkenny,139 on the northern side of a low rise west of the River Dinin. It lay at a height of approximately 129m above sea level, about 3km north of Castlecomer on the Clogh road opposite the disused Deerpark Colliery. The site is approximately 500m south of Ardra Castle and 6km south-east of the early Bronze Age cemetery at Ballyoskill, excavated by Ellen Prendergast and Michael Ryan (this volume, pp 235–43)

Description of site
The tops of the side stones were found 0.55m below the sod at the northern side and 0.72m at the southern side. The cist was very slightly trapezoidal in plan—wider at the eastern end—


Fig. 3.86—Location map, Ardra, Co. Kilkenny


Fig. 3.87—Plan and sections of grave, Ardra, Co. Kilkenny

with its long axis aligned north-east/south-west. Internally it measured 1m long by 0.5m wide by 0.46m high (Fig. 3.87). Each of the cist walls was formed of a single edge-set slab, measuring on average 0.12m thick. In lifting the capstone of the cist, the finders had damaged the north-eastern end stone and displaced the northern side stone somewhat. The cist walls were inclined inwards and a series of flagstones of varying sizes were placed horizontally over the tops of the side stones and parallel with them. Some of these flags were missing from the disturbed northern end of the cist and were visible in the surrounding upcast soil. The cist was covered with a large, triangular capstone, measuring 1.05m long by 0.87m wide by 0.11m thick, which lay directly on the small flags. Smaller packing stones were also visible outside the cist walls. The floor of the cist consisted of a very fine, light grey sandy gravel and the bones lay directly on this.
The cist contained the unburnt disarticulated remains of an adult (1992:24), probably male. No accompanying artefacts were found. The long bones removed by the landowner consisted of the right femur and two tibiae, which, according to Mr Nolan, the finder, were lying parallel to each other close to the northern long side. The mandible was removed and replaced by Mr Nolan but originally lay in the centre of the cist. A portion of the lower end of a femur was visible at the southern side of the cist and another long bone lay parallel to the western end. Fragments of a crushed cranium were found in the centre of the eastern end of
the cist. A humerus, radius and fragments of a long bone lay parallel to the northern side; part of an ulna and the end of a humerus lay at the western end; part of a fibula and a radius lay to the east, closer to the centre of the cist. The end of a femur lay along the centre of the southern wall and portions of another along the western wall. Some loose teeth, part of a rib bone, one patella and some other fragmentary bones were also recovered. A small quantity of unidentifiable calcined bone was also found. This is not identifiable to species

Comment
The human remains from this site have not been dated. The cist contained no pottery or other finds but it is assumed to be of early Bronze Age date based on its form.

HUMAN REMAINS
BARRA Ó DONNABHÁIN

Introduction
The remains (1992:24) consist of the partial skeleton of one adult individual, probably male. The skull is represented by just a few fragments, though most of the tooth positions in the mandible are observable. Portions of all of the bones of the upper right limb are present, but the left upper limb is represented only by the proximal end of the left radius. Fragments of all of the bones of both lower limbs are present, as are six unsided rib fragments and a portion of a left hip bone. Two hand phalanges and five tarsal bones were recovered from the site.
The remains are in a poor state of preservation and were disturbed during the initial discovery of the site. All bones appear to have been replaced in the cist prior to examination by the archaeologist. It is not possible to discern the original body position. The only bones that seem to be in correct anatomical position are the skull, jaw fragments and right humerus. The rest of the bones were scattered in the cist. None of the vertebrae were recovered. This could be a function of preservation or may indicate that these bones represent the secondary deposition of a cadaver that had been allowed to decay elsewhere.
The remains are in a poor state of preservation and were disturbed during the initial discovery of the site. All bones appear to have been replaced in the cist prior to examination by the archaeologist. It is not possible to discern the original body position. The only bones that seem to be in correct anatomical position are the skull, jaw fragments and right humerus. The rest of the bones were scattered in the cist. None of the vertebrae were recovered. This could be a function of preservation or may indicate that these bones represent the secondary deposition of a cadaver that had been allowed to decay elsewhere.
Three small fragments of calcined bone were found among the unburnt remains from the cist. Two of these are portions of long bones while the third is not identifiable. It is not possible to determine whether these bone fragments are human.

Age and sex
In the absence of sexually diagnostic elements, the estimation of sex can only be based on the size and general robustness of the remains. These suggest that this may have been a male individual, though this is stated with diffidence as sexual dimorphism varies between populations. The state of fusion of the epiphyses and the development of the dentition indicate that this was an adult. A more precise estimate of age cannot be made. The degrees of dental attrition observed are not particularly heavy. While this may be suggestive of a younger adult, it must be remembered that dental attrition is governed by many cultural factors and can only be used as an indicator of age when the attrition patterns of the particular socio-cultural group from which an individual is drawn are known.

Teeth
The following teeth were present in the jaws at the time of death (teeth in italics are missing post-mortem):

Most of both maxillae and the distal portion of the lower left quadrant are not available for inspection. Both of the lower central incisors were lost during life. There is a chronic dental abscess cavity associated with the lower right first molar. Dental calculus occurs in moderate amounts on just two teeth: the lower right second and third molars. Dental attrition is heaviest on the canines and first molars, where secondary dentine covers much of the occlusal surfaces. On most of the other teeth that are observable, secondary dentine is exposed in small pockets or not at all.

Pathology
Bone changes that are characteristic of mild degrees of arthritic degenerative disease are to be found in the right shoulder, right hip and in both knees. Most of the other joints of the
body are not available for examination. This degenerative joint disease was not severe and was probably the result of the cumulative strains of everyday activities. As such, the presence and distribution of the disease suggest that this person led a physically active life. Periosteal reactive bone occurs on the external surface of at least one rib. These surfaces of the ribs are subcutaneous and the bone lesions may be secondary to some overlying soft tissue infection.

139. Parish of Castlecomer, barony of Fassadinin. SMR KK005-086——. IGR 253518 174270.