NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Roscommon Site name: KILTULLAGH CHURCH, KILTULLAGH

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 00E0322

Author: R.A. Gregory, School of Geography, University of Manchester.

Site type: Church

ITM: E 552965m, N 774307m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.716313, -8.712557

Excavation commenced on 8 August 2000 at the site of a raised, rectangular platform extending from beneath the boundary wall of the existing ruins of the Kiltullagh church site. The existing ruin is thought to date from 1441 and to have been destroyed by Cromwellian forces in the mid-17th century. The dimensions of the platform are identical to those of the ruined church. The alignments of the two structures differ by approximately 5o.

The purpose of the excavation, therefore, was to investigate the hypothesis that the raised platform consisted of the remains of an ecclesiastical structure that pre-dated the ruined church building. More generally, the excavation was intended to extend the interpretation of the Kiltullagh complex, which has been shown to contain the site of an Early Christian cemetery, but has not, to date, established the location of any relevant domestic or ecclesiastical structure.

The excavation has proved highly relevant to Early Christian activity on Kiltullagh Hill. It has exposed the remains of a substantial stone-built structure and produced up to 300 small finds including animal bone and ceramics.

The external dimensions of the structure are 7.5m by 18m. At the base of the wall the foundations are 2m wide; the walls are c. 1.2m wide and exhibit evidence of a high quality of masonry. They are constructed of a rubble and mortar core and faced internally and externally by large random stones that, in some places, show clear evidence of dressing. At their deepest point the foundations lie c. 1m below the modern land surface, and the exposed walls extend 0.5m above the surface.

The interior of the structure is composed of random stone—a rich fill that probably represents collapse and that has been partially excavated. Amongst the fill a considerable quantity of animal bone was retrieved, as well as a small assemblage of late medieval pottery. At the base of this fill a floor layer was identified. This was composed of a layer of yellow clay, which was probably derived from clay deposits located close to the Kiltullagh turlough.

The clay floor was found to seal a destruction layer comprising burnt timber and thatch. In the north-western corners of the stone building a substantial post-hole, with packing-stones, was also located beneath the yellow clay/flooring horizon. This feature may relate to an additional post-hole, which was located close to the external face of the wall in the north-eastern corner. Both post-holes contained substantial quantities of robust charcoal. It is possible that these features represent the remains of an earlier wooden structure over which a stone building was erected. The small differences in post-hole alignments, and the alignment of the ruined church and the structure currently under investigation, may prove to be significant.

In April 2001, pending the issue of a continuation licence, the remaining unexposed areas of the site will be excavated and the site secured in a manner to be approved by Dúchas The Heritage Service.