NMI Burial Excavation Records


Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 42:00802; 42:10914 Licence number: 91E0047

Author: Theresa McDonald, St O’Hara’s Hill, Tullamore, Co. Offaly.

Site type: Multi-phase landscape

ITM: E 468568m, N 803482m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.963907, -10.003037

The seventh season of survey and excavation at the Deserted Village, Slievemore, continued over a seven-week period (14 July–29 August). The 1997 season concentrated on the excavation beside House #36, i.e. Cuttings A, B and C. A survey using a theodolite was commenced in the nearby village of Tuar Riabhach and a plane table in House #40 at the junction of the roadway connecting Tuar with Tuar Riabhach. Section drawings of various features were also completed, together with ‘rubbings’ of initials noted on a number of quoin stones in houses in both Tuar and Tuar Riabhach.

Cutting A

Further trowelling west of House #36 revealed the foundation course of a stone wall, pre-dating the house and orientated north-east by south-west. The western baulk of this cutting was extended in order to find the return wall, but it seems that the old pathway/roadway which traverses the village cut through the wall at this point and destroyed it. Cobbling was found running under and abutting this wall on the south.

Cutting C

Trowelling in Cutting C, east of the manure-pit wall, revealed the outline of a circular or oval feature, F27, consisting of a black, organic layer, sloping from north-west to south-east and incorporating in its eastern limit the pit excavated in 1996 and a small boulder some 0.5m north of this pit. Evidence of cobbling had previously been found immediately east of the doorway of House #36, north-west of the manure-pit and also outside the eastern section of the manure-pit wall and in various other places, south and west of the house, suggesting that a large part of the site had been cobbled prior to the construction of the present house and manure-pit, which date from c. 1800. Pottery of 17th-century date was found lying on top of the cobbles.

F27 was surrounded by a thin line of red, oxidised material, while a section cut through the northern line of the pit indicated three deposits of the black organic material, interspersed with a lighter sandy material and underneath a layer of fairly large stones, some of which had iron slag adhering to them. It was tentatively decided that the deposit represented several man-made floors, either of a house, a forge or an animal shelter. The intervening deposits of different material may represent a hiatus in the use of the site, e.g. temporary abandonment. Trowelling in the trench south of F27 uncovered the remains of an enclosing wall, part of which underlies the manure-pit wall. The previously noted anomalous curvature of the manure-pit wall at the north-east corner was in fact part of this earlier, enclosing wall. The evidence from both Cuttings A and B suggets 17th-century occupation of the site, together with other earlier occupations, represented by the pit and enclosing wall.

A section was cut immediately east of the small boulder which lay c. 0.85m to the north, beside the edge of the baulk and along the line of the C–D grid line. It was set into the black organic deposit at an angle (north-east by south-west), and rested on a floor of small to medium stones, some of which were beach pebbles. Small packing-stones were noted on the southern edge of the boulder and were covered with what appeared to be iron slag. The stratigraphy was as follows:


black organic deposit c. 20mm thick (F27);


red oxidised layer (F28);


mixed layer of black organic and red oxidised and iron pan plus light sandy soil (F35);


layer of stones (F41);


pale sandy clay (F45).

Finds included a piece of wood, an iron object and pieces of quartz, together with fragments of an aquamarine-coloured bottle, the base of which was inscribed with the name ‘Doyle D’. A number of the stones in the matrix may have been deliberately selected as the shapes and colourings were more than usually attractive. Lying at the base of the boulder at the south-western edge of stones was a fragment of black volcanic stone which, upon examination by a geologist, was confirmed to be either haematite or malachite. The black colour would, however, suggest haematite.

The 1998 season will continue the excavation of the pit in Cutting C, extend the area of Cutting A in a search for other wall sections, and endeavour to find some absolute dating evidence for the site.

The evidence from the architectural survey and a detailed study of the field systems suggest an origin for the village of Tuar in the Early Christian period. The Early Christian remains in Slievemore graveyard also suggest a contemporary settlement in the immediate area, probably in the deserted village.