2000:0457 - ARDREE, Kildare

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kildare Site name: ARDREE

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 35:32 Licence number: 00E0156

Author: Matthew Seaver for Valerie J. Keeley Ltd, Brehon House, Kilkenny Road, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny.

Site type: Medieval borough

ITM: E 668736m, N 692436m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.978258, -6.976503

Testing was undertaken at Ardree, Co. Kildare, as a result of recommendations made in an assessment of a proposed realignment of the L18 Athy–Carlow road. Ardree, located south of Athy, is the site of a documented medieval borough. The only remains of this settlement is a churchyard, which is bounded to the west by the current L18, which curves sharply at this point. During field-walking, a large quantity of medieval pottery was located within ploughsoil along the route south of the church site. As a result testing took place.

Four trenches were excavated both east–west and north–south to pick up any features running in either direction on the route. Trench 1 was placed in the ploughed field to the south and ran north–south. It measured 20m by 2m. Modern ploughsoil was up to 0.3m deep. This overlay an orange-brown, sandy clay, which was visible in patches over the yellow-brown boulder clay. Both deposits were truncated by potato drills running south-west to north-east and by earlier plough furrows running east–west.

Trench 3 measured 20m by 3m and was placed east–west along the road-take in the south of the ploughed field. The ploughsoil was slightly deeper in this trench, as it was further down the slope. It overlay a better-preserved layer of the orange-brown clay, which contained frequent charcoal flecks and shell fragments, along with medieval pottery. This layer was cut by the same regular linear features as Trench 2. In the western end of the trench a compact layer of brown, silty clay with small pebbles underlay ploughsoil. It is uncertain how this relates to the orange clay in the eastern half of the cutting. To the north-east of this area a stone structure was located. This consisted of two conjoined oval pits, which had clay-bonded stone facing up to three courses in depth. The area examined measured 0.5m by 0.5m. The structure clearly continued to the north and west, and the area was left for further excavation at a later stage. The structure cut the orange layer into the underlying yellow boulder clay and contained a fill of brown, silty clay with charcoal flecks and a fragment of Leinster cooking ware. This structure was interpreted as part of a corn-drying kiln.

Trenches 4 and 5 were placed to the north of the current cemetery boundary. Trench 4 ran east–west across the road-take and measured 10m by 2m. Trench 5 ran north–south and measured 15m by 2m. Both trenches contained thick layers of humic topsoil, which contained frequent disarticulated human and animal bone. This overlay further humic soil with a gritty content, which contained medieval pottery and human and animal bone. The minimum number of individuals recovered from the graveyard field was five adults, one child and two infants. Some of the human bone showed signs of disturbance, which concurs with their disarticulated nature. The animal bone consisted of cattle, pig, sheep and rabbit, in order of amount. Some of this bone exhibited signs of butchery. A partially articulated east–west-oriented burial was located in Trench 5. This burial was cut into an orange-brown, sandy clay. A number of probable grave cuts were located cut into a similar soil layer in Trench 4, and it was decided to cease testing at this point as the inhumations would be better dealt with under a full programme of excavation.

Large quantities of medieval ceramics, mainly of local type, were located, along with iron nails and a single stray hollow scraper. The archaeological deposits uncovered suggest that part of the medieval borough and its adjacent graveyard are located within the road-take. As a consequence full excavation is currently being undertaken.