NMI Burial Excavation Records


Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 98E0526, 99E0517, 99E0518, 99E0519, 99E0523

Author: John Ó Néill for Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd, 2 Killiney View, Albert Road Lower, Glenageary, Co. Dublin.

Site type: Archaeological landscape

ITM: E 724204m, N 723182m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.244461, -6.139043

The Science and Technology Park at Cherrywood and Laughanstown is divided into a number of components, known as Park One, Park Two and the District Centre lands. A link road from the N11 to the proposed M50 motorway also goes through the Park. The works carried out to date are within the area of Science and Technology Park One.

Initially, geophysical analysis was carried out across most of the area, which was to be landscaped and developed during the construction of Park One. This work was undertaken by GeoArc Ltd and GSB Bradford and identified several potential archaeological features. Testing of these features revealed that many were simply geological variations in the subsoil and glacial till. Two of the sites, Sites 3 and 18, were identified during testing of the anomalies uncovered during the geophysical surveys. Most of the archaeological sites were identified during monitoring of ground disturbance works, carried out as part of the landscaping phase of the Park One development. In total, 21 locations were designated as archaeological sites for the purpose of recording during the on-site works. A number of these were subsequently dismissed as non-archaeological, although the site numbers were retained to avoid confusion.

After the initial testing and monitoring a number of sites were investigated and published in Excavations 1998 (40-2). The locations around these sites were reassigned licence numbers this year to distinguish the separate landscape units that they represent. The areas were labelled A, B, C and D and are described as such below. All investigations in these areas are now complete.

A number of other features, including the remaining 19th-century agricultural fabric such as field walls, banks and drains, were recorded as part of the pre-development and monitoring works, as was a footbridge crossing over the old Harcourt Street-Shankill railway line, which was laid through the site in the 1850s and closed down in 1958.

The Park One area of the Science and Technology Park lay within lands belonging to the Domville estate, which took in much of Loughlinstown and the surrounding area. In 1179 Tully Church, which is immediately to the north-west of the development, was donated by a Hiberno-Norse family, the MacTorcaills, to Christchurch. It is likely that the lands on which the Science and Technology Park is being built were also under the control of the MacTorcaills.

The area comprises a reasonably discrete landscape unit, as it crosses two low hills (at 40m and 48m OD) separated by a glen and bordered by the Loughlinstown River to the south and the Shanaganagh River to the east. The confluence of the two rivers lay to the south-east of the development, from where the Shanaganagh River flows on out into Killiney Bay.

The area to the north was monitored by Ed O'Donovan during a previous development (Excavations 1997, 25, 97E0279), when a number of isolated cremations were uncovered. Tully Church and the Laughanstown wedge tomb are to the north-west and west of the development respectively. There are also portal tombs nearby at Ballybrack and Brennanstown.

In overall terms the area has now produced evidence for the use of the lands from the Neolithic onwards. The earlier evidence is mainly of settlement, primarily within the glen or on a terrace on an east-facing slope in the glen (Area B, Site 11). This includes Neolithic and Beaker material. From the Bronze Age we begin to get evidence of burial, associated with cordoned urns or unaccompanied, on top of the low hills. This continues into the Iron Age, when a ring-barrow (Area A, Site 4) and a larger barrow (Area C, Site 18) were constructed on both hills. To date, no evidence of Iron Age settlement has been identified within the glen. The use of the hilltops for burial continues into the Later Iron Age, when Site 18 was reused as an inhumation cemetery. A possible drying kiln and another structure (also within the enclosure) appear to be contemporary with this cemetery.

Sometime after the cemetery went out of use, and was no longer recognised as a burial-ground, the large enclosure was reused as a settlement site. A large rectangular building and then two smaller buildings were erected within the enclosure. The finds associated with this phase have strong Norse and Hiberno-Norse affinities.

The later evidence from the area is mainly agricultural, such as furrows, drains and field walls, although traces of the hut sites contemporary with the Loughlinstown Military Camp (1791-9) were also uncovered.

A summary of each area of the Science and Technology Park is given below.

Area A (99E0517)
Area A lay on top of a low hill overlooking the confluence of the Loughlinstown and Shanaganagh rivers and measured c. 40m (north-south) by 40m. The top of the hill was at around 40m OD. Three archaeological sites (Sites 4, 5 and 7) were identified in Area A during the monitoring phase. The first (Site 4) consisted of a late prehistoric, probably Iron Age, ring-barrow. The other two sites were single features in the vicinity of the ring-barrow. Site 7, at least, appears to be contemporary with the ring-barrow. These sites are summarised in Excavations 1998, 41, and no new features were uncovered during further monitoring this year.

Area B (99E0518)
Area B lay in a glen between Area A and another low hill to the west, overlooking the Loughlinstown River, and measured c. 100m (north-south) by 80m. The base of the glen was at about 33m OD, c. 7m lower than the top of the hill containing Area A, to the east, and c. 15m lower than the hill to the west containing Areas C and D. The glen was between 30m and 50m wide with two fairly steep slopes on either side.

Four archaeological sites (Sites 2, 3, 8 and 11) were identified in Area B during the monitoring. A range of evidence was uncovered in this area, including fulachta fiadh (Sites 3, 8 and 11) and occupation material from the Neolithic (Sites 3 and 11) through to the Bronze Age (Sites 2 and 11). There was also evidence of later activity from two sites dating to the 1790s military camp (Sites 3 and 11). Sites 2, 3 and 8 were summarised in Excavations 1998, 40-2, and so only Site 11 is described below.

Site 11: multi-period
The earliest phases of Site 11 were cut into and below a soil level (F278) below a deposit of fulacht fiadh-firing debris (F215). The buried soil level was up to 0.15m deep in places. Some sherds of modified carinated bowls were uncovered from F278, along with a javelinhead, a leaf-shaped arrowhead, scrapers and knapping debris. A series of features was recorded within the subsoil below F278, including some stake-holes and four small cobbled surfaces.

A number of post- and stake-holes cut through F278 also appeared to substantially pre-date F215. Some of these features appeared to represent the remains of a subrectangular structure, 5m east-west by 3.5m. This survived mostly as a series of post- and stake-holes with two large post-holes at the south-east, possibly indicating an entrance. This interpretation is somewhat conjectural.

Another group of features was assigned a date immediately preceding the fulacht fiadh phase. These features included two possible hearths, a substantial pit and further possible structural remains. These probably date to the Bronze Age. The remains of two 3.5m-diameter circles of post-holes could be identified on the ground, with the two possible hearths at c. 1.5-2m outside of each. Again, the condition of the surviving remains makes this interpretation conjectural.

Ardmarks were also preserved beneath the main fulacht fiadh deposit (F215), which seem to represent activity associated with the initial ground-stripping for the construction/use of the fulacht fiadh.

The fulacht fiadh covered most of the area of the site and survived as an oval, unlined trough and a large spread of burnt stone and charcoal.

A series of furrows had been excavated through the burnt spread. A small number of sherds of medieval pottery (green-glazed local wares) probably dating to the 13th/14th century or later were recovered from the topsoil on the site and may be contemporary with the furrows. At the very least, the furrows pre-date the 1790s, and they may be substantially earlier.

The site was reoccupied during the military camp phase in the 1790s, with evidence of possible hut platforms and a cobbled area. A field bank from an 1812 land sale was built over the site, and a number of drains and pipes were also laid through the site in the 19th century and later.

Area C (99E0523)
Area C lay to the south-west of Area D and measured c. 60m north-south by 80m. Both areas lay on a low hill to the west of Area B, at around 47m OD. The southern end of the hill overlooks the Loughlinstown River. Two sites were identified during a geophysical survey and test-trenching in the area. The larger site (Site 18) was a 41m-diameter circular enclosure. This provided evidence of its use from the later prehistoric period through to the 11th/12th century. A small Early Bronze Age flat cemetery (Site 19) was found 20m east of the enclosure.

Site 18: multi-period

Later prehistoric/Iron Age
A 43m-diameter subcircular enclosure was identified on the site, c. 20m west of the earlier cremation cemetery (Site 19, below). The enclosure was defined by a continuous 2-3m-wide ditch, which was between 4m and 8m deep.

Cremations were identified at various depths within the ditch or even scattered along the sides, suggesting that the use of the enclosure as a burial site took place over an extended period of time. At the western side of the site, in two places, a setting of stones had been placed in the ditch and cremated bone placed on top of it. Two pits were also inserted into the silted-up ditch fill and covered over with a large boulder.

A small quantity of struck flint was recovered from the site, including a thumbnail scraper. Some blue glass beads, a bronze fragment, a bone pin and an iron pin from separate deposits of burnt bone suggest that the site was probably constructed in the Iron Age. Only one cremation was found intact in the centre of the site, and the fragments of burnt human bone in the grave fills of a later inhumation cemetery probably derive from cremation burials disturbed during the later interments.

It is unclear whether any of the post-holes in the centre of the site are associated with this phase.

The inhumation cemetery
In the later Iron Age (possibly the 6th and/or 7th century) the interior was reused as a cemetery. Thirty-eight burials were recovered, although around half were disarticulated or badly disturbed

Adult male and female burials were present, as were child burials. Most were laid in earth-dug graves orientated roughly east-west, with the head to the west. In the burials where the skull area survived intact, some 76% had the head protected by a number of stones. This generally took the form of a large stone placed on either side of the skull.

In two instances buckles, one a D-shaped belt-buckle, were found, as were a fragment of an iron pin and another iron fragment. These indicate at least some clothed burials; otherwise, grave-goods were absent. Animal bone was found in one or two graves, as was burnt bone, but this material may be intrusive. An iron spade shoe was uncovered from one of the grave fills, along with a second iron object.

Early occupation phase
In the period before the Norse occupation of the site two structures were built at the southern end, away from the burials on the site (although one burial, an isolated, badly disturbed inhumation, lay between the two). The eastern structure appears to be some form of keyhole-shaped drying kiln. The western structure (Structure 4) was described by an oval setting of post-holes containing a sunken area. A bone pin/needle was recovered from the sunken area.

These two structures appear to represent some form of use of the site broadly contemporary with the inhumation cemetery.

Two parts of the ditch, at the east and west, were deliberately backfilled as entrances, possibly at this time. Some sherds of an unidentified type of coarse pottery were recovered from the eastern entrance. A single sherd of B ware has also been identified from topsoil finds on the site. Other finds that may date to this phase include some tiny bone comb fragments and a lignite bracelet.

The Norse settlement
At least two phases of Norse settlement were also present on the site. These were associated with a long house (Structure 1) and at least two later structures (Structures 2 and 3) and pits. A number of Norse artefacts were found in the fill of the ditch, including an amber bead, an 11th/12th-century bone comb and some ferrous artefacts that were paralleled in more secure Norse features. A three-pronged object and a number of knives were among the iron objects recovered from the ditch.

The earlier Norse phase saw the construction of a long house (Structure 1), 17.5m long and between 5.75m and 6.8m wide, which was roughly trapezoidal in outline. The entrance of a later house (Structure 2) overlay the north-eastern corner, and portions of the walls had been destroyed by 19th-century field drains.

The long house was followed by a more dispersed settlement consisting of two buildings (Structures 2 and 3), at either end of a north-south axis through the site. A large rectangular pit, west of the two structures, was also contemporary with this stage.

The northern structure (Structure 2) was an aisled house 8.15m by 5.4m with a single entrance, at the north. The outer walls were slightly bow-sided. There were pairs of opposing roof supports at either end of the building and a number of larger post-holes along the side-walls and internally, which must also have supported the roof. A number of finds were recovered from cobbling associated with the entranceway, including a ringed pin, bone comb fragments and other small metal finds.

The second structure (3) was rectangular and measured 9.4m by 5.3m. This survived as a rough setting of post-holes.

The large rectangular pit contained a bronze ringed pin, a three-pronged object, other fragmentary bronze and iron objects and a decorated whale bone plaque. Whale bone plaques are typically associated with wealthy Norse women and suggest Norse settlement here in the 9th/10th century.

Site 19: cremation cemetery
A small, unenclosed cremation cemetery was also identified beyond the eastern limits of the site. Two cremations contained some body and rimsherds of a cordoned urn (or urns) and are very much of a token nature; they date to the Early or Middle Bronze Age. The largest cremation contained no pottery but was inserted within a pit slightly larger than the actual cremation deposit. The pit containing the cremated bone was 0.7m in diameter and 0.27m deep.

Area D (99E0519)
Area D contained a single site (Site 21). This survived as a circular paved area that may represent the remains of some form of drying kiln. This site is medieval in date.

The paved area was 2.6m in diameter, and the paving itself was fairly irregular, although it was a generally a single course deep. The ground surface had been deliberately lowered by 0.2m for the paving to be put in place. A fragment of a millstone was used as part of the stone surface. Some of the other stones may also have been reused from elsewhere. Another stone had a concave depression on one side (a pivot stone?).

Some other small finds were recovered between the stones and the topsoil overlying the feature, including a small number of sherds of local cooking and glazed wares.

There was a small, 0.8m by 0.5m, rectangular area of paving attached to the main area, perhaps marking the location of a flue. There was a single post-hole at the opposite side to the 'flue'.