1995:001 - Ballygalley, Antrim

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Antrim Site name: Ballygalley

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 35:54 Licence number:

Author: Dermot G. Moore, 31 Chlorine Gardens, Belfast BT9 5DL (for ADS Ltd).

Site type: Neolithic-Bronze Age occupation/industrial site

ITM: E 737022m, N 907689m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.898152, -5.863685

Following a site assessment by Eoin Halpin in October 1994 (Excavations 1994, 4-5), and the nature and extent of archaeological deposits uncovered, it was decided to undertake a larger-scale investigation of the area to uncover any direct or indirect links between this site and the nearby recently excavated habitation and industrial sites (D.D.A. Simpson et al., Excavations 1994, 2-4).

This excavation took place over a period of six weeks between 28 August and 6 October 1995 on behalf of Archaeological Development Services Ltd, in advance of housing development.

Three trenches were opened in the area previously defined by trial-trenching. The total area under investigation comprised 350m2, with eight 20m x 20m grids surveyed using resistivity and magnetometry.

Trench 1 (240m2)
This was the main area of prehistoric occupation on the site. Activity was in the form of an east-sloping 0.25m-deep occupation deposit lying on a cobbled platform which appears to have been built on the edge of a small, natural coastal inlet. The inlet had silted up and was overlain by a 0.2-0.3m-thick peat deposit which contained animal bone and wood. Neolithic and Bronze Age pottery and flint were also retrieved from this deposit.

The peat deposit appears at present to be contemporary with the occupation deposits upslope from the small inlet.

Further upslope of the occupation deposits several shallow irregular pits were excavated, all producing Neolithic artefacts. Only two more substantial features were discovered, one of which had part of the original wooden post preserved.

Finds from Trench 1 include a large quantity of flint, with end-scrapers being the predominant artefact type. Porcellanite axes and flakes, struck pitchstone and rock crystal were also recovered. The pottery assemblage is quite large and is in a good state of preservation. It consists mainly of flat-based wares, possible sherds of Beaker and a quantity of ‘Grooved Ware’ along with Western Neolithic pottery.

One shale bead and a stone pendant along with two pieces of bronze were also recovered.

Trench 2 (50 m2)
This trench was opened to locate and excavate a hearth found during trial-trenching. The hearth was excavated but no artefacts were associated with it. The trench was excavated to a depth of 2.5m to define the nature of the possible raised beach deposits. These had no finds associated with them and were laid on natural clay deposits.

Trench 3 (60m2)
This trench had the remains of a probable stone cairn and associated stone platform overlying part of a prehistoric water-course. The deposits within this watercourse suggest that it was open during the Neolithic period (Western Neolithic pottery and flint along with preserved wood and animal bone were recovered).

Finds from this trench include Neolithic pottery and flint, porcellanite, pitchstone and a bronze smelting droplet.

The site is slightly different in character from the previous sites excavated nearby. The finds suggest closer affinities with the Giant’s Ring (Co. Down) material and the pit circle at Knowth (Co. Meath). There are, however, some parallels with the Ballygally Sites 1 and 2 in the form of the cobbled platforms and the large quantities of flint and Early Neolithic pottery.

The actual site is also criss-crossed by a number of post-medieval drains, some remarkably well constructed, with post-medieval pottery, glass and clay pipes. A post-medieval boundary ditch or gully runs north-south across the site and was exposed in all three trenches.