1995:244 - Ballysadare, Sligo

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Sligo Site name: Ballysadare

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 95E0020

Author: Hilary Opie, 16 Ormond Sq., Dublin 7 (on behalf of John Channing).

Site type: Burial-ground

ITM: E 567258m, N 829007m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.208921, -8.501901

Archaeological excavations took place between 17 January and 6 February 1995. The site was uncovered during bridge construction along the Ballysadare-Collooney Bypass scheme when machine activity turned up human skeletal remains.

Only a small island of material, approximately 14m2, was left to excavate and this was divided into four quadrants. A total of 37 human skeletons were identified. These showed great uniformity; all were aligned roughly east-west, and all, except one, with their heads at the western end. All appeared to be extended inhumations in a supine position. Some were buried with their arms resting at their sides while others had their arms bent at the elbows with their hands resting over the pelvic area. Grave cuts and divides were also observed in a number of burials, and one burial had a deliberate arrangement of three stones placed under the skull, which would have served as pillow stones.

Skeletal analysis of four of the burials revealed that there were three middle-aged females and one adult male. It is also possible that the individual buried with his head to the east may have been a priest, as they were often buried in this manner. There is a strong Early Christian presence in the area and it is possible that this burial-ground represents part of that Early Christian tradition.

In addition, two artefacts were found with the burials: part of an iron ribbon torque and a bronze ring. The ribbon torque was found around the neck of one of the burials and this association appears to be unique in Ireland. The bronze ring was found by the left radius/ulna of one of the burials. With an internal diameter of only 12.5mm it was too small for a finger-ring and its location, near the waist, may suggest that it was part of a belt-like item, perhaps for holding the shroud closed. The lack of other funerary items, such as coffin nails, suggests that the individuals were buried without coffins, perhaps wearing just a shroud.