1994:104 - Derrybrusk, Fermanagh

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Fermanagh Site name: Derrybrusk

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

Author: Frederick Carroll, 66 Irvinestown Rd., Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh.

Site type: Burnt mound

ITM: E 628545m, N 838904m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.298104, -7.561479

This burnt mound is placed near to the west shore of Lough Neely, near Tamlaght. It was discovered on June 7, 1993, during a planned search for burnt mounds in Fermanagh by Environment Service: Historic Monuments and Buildings, and it was partly excavated in the summer of 1994, under the same auspices. The intact burnt mound had a plan shape like a broad waisted figure of eight, about 15m long, about 8m wide at its broadest, and about 0.25m high. Under a cover of soil was burnt mound material consisting of burnt shattered sandstone pieces in a black matrix rich in charcoal. The burnt mound deposit was up to 0.5m thick, and rested on a deposit of peat up to 1.75m thick. Within the burnt mound deposit a saddle quern was found, working surface downwards, just above the basal peat. Close by within the burnt mound material, a complex which included two dug-out alder trunks came to light. These were presumably portions of two different log boats, and they will be described as such in what follows.

The two parallel sided log boats were broken irregularly transversely. They were placed nearly horizontally, right side up, with their long axes parallel but with one slightly offset laterally with respect to the other. The gunwhales of one were also 0.5m lower than the other. The intact ends faced in opposite directions towards the outside of the complex. The broken ends overlapped by a few centimetres between these extremities. The intact ends were squared off in plan (with blade marks showing on the outside) and each is described here as a stern.

The upper boat had a beam of 1m and a surviving length of 3.17m along the port side. The lower boat had a beam of 0.62m and a surviving lengh of 0.73m along its starboard side. The lateral offset between the sides mentioned was 0.2m. The lower boat was pale grey, tinged with pink in colour, while the upper boat was dark chocolate brown.

Each boat was flanked along both sides with flanking poles placed parallel to the hulls. These poles were placed from the level of gunwhales to near the base of the boats. The base of the upper boat lay on a layer of yellow silt overlying a bed of moss. Below the moss was a single layer of split logs, split side downwards, each 0.11m thick, aligned along the long axis of the boat, with no gaps between them. The split logs had a sprinkling of charcoal on their upper surfaces. The lower boat lay directly in the peat. The insides of both hulls were filled with unburnt white siltstone pieces which were quite unlike the garishly coloured sandstone pieces of the burnt mound material. Also inside the hulls were a few dozen brands, each about 0.3m long and about 0.1m thick, with bark along most of the length and with one end carbonised, tapering to a sharp point with a crazing of deep cracks. The whole two-boat arrangement was surrounded by ten pointed (with scalloped axe-marks) stakes which had been driven vertically into the basal peat at distances varying from zero to 0.4m from the hulls. Some of the stakes were doubled up. The entire boat complex was covered with brushwood and burnt mound material entirely covered this. The boat complex was placed on top of a vigorously active spring of water which gushed up from fissures in the basal peat. Queen’s University, Belfast have calibrated mean carbon dates of 3150 and 3160 years before present for the two boats. All of the items and materials of the boat complex were recovered. The Department of Agriculture (NI) kindly lifted the larger boat.

With the landowner’s permission, this site might be worth further investigation.