1996:303 - 'The Deserted Village', Slievemore (Tuar), Achill Island, Mayo

County: Mayo Site name: 'The Deserted Village', Slievemore (Tuar), Achill Island

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 42:00802 Licence number: 91E0047

Author: Theresa McDonald, Achill Archaeological Summer School, St 0'Hara's Hill, Tullamore, Co. Offaly.

Site type: Multiphase landscape

ITM: E 459082m, N 807712m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.999396, -10.149450

The sixth season of survey and excavation in the Deserted Village, Slievemore, continued over a six-week period (15 July-30 August) in 1996, concentrating upon the excavation in the immediate vicinity of House 36 and upon a contour survey of a togher, associated field systems and two unusual rectangular structures, located south of the roadway in Tuar.

The excavation
Further evidence of settlement pre-dating the construction of House 36 was provided by the discovery of a large spreads of cobbling east of the house, the remains of ridge-and-furrow seen in section in the garden attached to the house, and a sophisticated system of drains surrounding the house. The cobbling was concentrated immediately east of the doorway and south of the manure pit (Cutting C), and it seems likely that a large section would have been destroyed when the manure pit was dug out. Prior to the construction of House 36 the area of the site would have been cobbled. Buckley ware and fragments of what appears to be late medieval pottery were found resting on top of the cobbles.

What appeared to be a large post-hole, 0.4m x 0.36m, was found at the same level at the far eastern side of Cutting C, but upon excavation turned out to be quite shallow, having been cut at an angle and continuing under the baulk. The fill contained a fine-grained, dark organic soil, and small fragments of blue glass were recovered from this structure. A very sophisticated drain, of probable medieval origin, was discovered immediately north of the house. This drain was cut in a diagonal line from the north-east corner of the house to a point midway along the northern gable and was then recessed to form a small opening, before continuing along to the gable end. The recessed area would have allowed water flowing downslope to be channelled eastwards away from the house. The relative sophistication of the drain and its proximity to the gable of the house, i.e. only c. 0.5m, suggests that it predates the house. It is composed of compacted yellow silty soil, which contrasts markedly with the dark organic soil between it and the gable of the house and with the overlying soil burden. Further investigation of this structure is planned for 1997.

The survey
A contour survey was commenced and completed in an area south of the roadway in Tuar, where a stone togher, two rather unusual subrectangular structures and a system of associated field systems were noted during the 1995 season. The togher appears to have had its origin in the village of Tuar, north of the present roadway. The two subrectangular structures and the surrounding ridge-and-furrow field systems are located south of the togher, and in the same area are linear banks made up of concentrations of stones, possibly field clearance, although other explanations have not been ruled out, particularly as the area under investigation is close to a known souterrain and an early enclosure.

Several wall (section) drawings were completed, as well as a plane table survey of Houses 38 and 39. The project is due to continue in 1997.