County: Louth Site name: SITE 4, NEWTOWN–MONASTERBOICE

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 00E0479

Author: Robert M. Chapple, 20 Thalia Street, Belfast BT12 5PT, Northern Ireland, for Valerie J. Keeley Ltd.

Site type: Multi-period pits and post-holes

ITM: E 704693m, N 780980m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.767886, -6.411959

The site was discovered by Kieran Campbell during licensed monitoring of topsoil-stripping on the line of the Northern Motorway, north-west of Drogheda, Co. Louth (see below No. 714). The site lay on the southern face of a low hill (c. 126.47m OD) on the southern side of Knockmountagh lane, which runs westwards from Newtown–Monasterboice village. Initially, c. 15–20 potential features were identified in an area of c. 600m2. On excavation, the majority of these proved to be either stone-holes or shallow areas of decayed sandstone. The remaining archaeological features comprised four pits and two post-holes.

With the exception of pit C10, which contained two fills, all features contained only a single fill, and all cut the glacial subsoil. The southern portion of the site contained two post-holes and one pit in close proximity. The first post-hole (C6) was roughly circular in plan with a conical, rounded base (0.17m x 0.12m x 0.18m deep). It was filled by a loose, dark brown, sandy clay with few charcoal inclusions. The second post-hole was located 0.3m to the north-west of C6. It too was roughly circular in plan but with a conical, pointed base (0.2m x 0.17m x 0.18m deep). The fill was a mid-brown, sandy clay with sparse charcoal inclusions. The pit was a shallow cut with splayed sides and was circular in plan (0.44m in diameter x 0.23m deep). This was filled by a hard, mid-grey, silty clay and contained a single piece of iron slag.

Approximately 16m to the north of the above were the remaining pits. The largest of these, C10, was a shallow, irregularly shaped pit (3.6m x 2.4m x 0.08m deep), which contained two fills. The lower fill was a friable, mid-brown, sandy clay with occasional charcoal flecks, from which a single piece of struck flint was recovered; above this was a dark grey/black, sandy silt with frequent charcoal inclusions. The remaining two pits (C2 and C4) lay c. 12m to the north-east of C10. Both were shallow and appeared as irregular quadrangles in plan. C2 measured 0.59m x 0.44m x 0.05m deep. This was filled by a loose, dark brown clay with occasional charcoal flecks and produced a single piece of burnt stone. Finally, C4 (1m x 0.76m x 0.09m deep) was filled by a loose, dark brown clay with occasional charcoal inclusions.

All features appeared to have been heavily truncated during the process of stripping, which severely limited their subsequent analysis. Further, given the diverse nature of the few finds recovered, it is unlikely that the excavated features all relate to a single period or phase. Indeed, the individual features may range as broadly in date as from the Neolithic to the Early Christian period, if not later.