1995:262 - Derryloughan, Tyrone

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Tyrone Site name: Derryloughan

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 6:47 Licence number:

Author: Cia McConway, ADS Ltd, Unit 5, Westlink Enterprise Centre, 30-50 Distillery St., Belfast BT12 5BJ.

Site type: Trackway

ITM: E 690532m, N 864498m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.520789, -6.601623

During the course of field-walking in a raised bog in Derryloughan townland in 1994, a timber trackway was discovered in the section of one of the drainage ditches. A worked timber was removed from the site and was subsequently dated to between 768 and 517 BC (one sigma) by Queen’s University (UB-3854). Owing to the fact that the exposed portion of trackway was under threat from further peat extraction, a small salvage excavation was carried out in April 1995.

A total of six trenches were opened up, based on our own field-walking and probing, on a roughly north-south axis on either side of a raised access road within the bog. Trenches 1-4 and Trench 6 were completely excavated and recorded using the Museum of London wood sheets.

Trench 1 examined the original portion of trackway found in 1994. It was totally excavated within a trench measuring 5m x 5m and had been cut by the drainage ditch along the west and an old spade turf-cutting along the east. It had survived for a total length of 3m. The trackway consisted of a very substantial brushwood and roundwood substructure stabilised with pointed stakes and a roundwood superstructure. While the lowest layer of brushwood lay in a random fashion, the upper layers of the substructure and the superstructure lay in neat parallel rows, north-south, which suggested that the trackway ran roughly east-west. Overlying the upper roundwoods was a substantial blanket of scattered brushwood, suggesting that the trackway may have been in use for some time, with later attempts at maintenance.

At the eastern end of the trench lay a scatter of fairly gnarled timbers, running into the baulk in a north-eastern fashion. Probing showed that these timbers did not extend much further than the trench edge. It seems unlikely that this was a continuation of the above trackway given their very different forms and construction. It seems more likely that two separate trackways were located very near to one another.

Trenches 2, 3 and 4 were all opened up directly north of Trench 1 in an attempt to follow the original trackway as probing had indicated the presence of timber beneath the bog surface. All three trenches produced worked wood and roundwoods but all in a much poorer condition than in Trench 1.

Trench 2, 13m north of Trench 1, produced a small area of worked wood with the same roundwood and brushwood construction as in Trench 1, but with a north-south orientation.

Trench 3 was located just over 6m north of Trench 2 and uncovered a small number of roundwoods running east-west. There was no substructure and it was truncated along the western edge by the drainage ditch. There was insufficient evidence to conclude that this had been a trackway.

Trench 4 was located 5m north of Trench 3 and was also truncated along the western edge by the drainage ditch. A trackway or platform of massive oak quarter timbers and roundwoods was uncovered running north-east/south-west. A deep and substantial substructure of roundwood runners ran north-east/south-west and continued for a short distance into the baulks. The sheer massive size of the timbers and the construction differed greatly from that previously uncovered, and probing indicated that the superstructure was more or less confined to within the trench of 3m x 1m. That these timbers were deliberately deposited here there is no doubt; axe marks were found on the lower substructure and some timbers had been quartered. There is no evidence to suggest that these were bog oaks and were excavated where they fell. It is doubtful that these timbers once made a trackway as they are very limited in area; it may be that they formed a small platform or that the timber was lifted from here and used elsewhere, leaving only a small area. Samples were taken where appropriate for dendrochronology.

Trenches 5 and 6 were opened up to the south of the bog access road in an area known locally as ‘the sticky field’, in reference to the quantity of timber that comes up during turf- and drain-cutting. Trench 5 produced two parallel rows of short thin roundwoods running north-south for roughly 2m. Axe marks were visible on some of the wood; however, the timbers had been so badly damaged by previous turf-cutting that the trench was abandoned.

Trench 6, 5m x 5m, was opened up to reveal a substantial covering of large though gnarled timbers. There was evidence to suggest that some of the timbers had been reused from elsewhere as they showed considerable charring on the underside of the wood. The large superstructure was supported on a sparse substructure, with axe marks being very evident. The timbers ran into the baulk, giving an orientation of north-east/south-west. It is unlikely that these timbers constructed a trackway as they are very limited in area; they perhaps formed a small platform. Samples were taken for dendrochronolgy.

When submitted to the dendrochronology lab. at Queen’s University, the six samples chosen all had at least the minimum ring-count needed to facilitate a date. However, the results were very interesting in that none of the timbers could be cross-matched to one another and none could give a match on the master chart. This would certainly suggest something very strange going on in this area as the timbers were most definitely deposited by humans.

The site is certainly an enigma in that a date could not be produced despite substantial samples. However, by extrapolating from the evidence of the small areas investigated it is reasonable to conclude that there was fairly intense activity going on in the locality some 2500 years ago (C14 date for Trench 1) consisting of a network of trackways and possible platforms, as seen in Trenches 4 and 6.