2001:597 - Ardree (Ardreigh), Kildare

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kildare Site name: Ardree (Ardreigh)

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 35:03201 Licence number: 00E0156 ext.

Author: Hilary Opie, 103 Cherrywood Drive, Clondalkin, Dublin 22.

Site type: Medieval settlement and graveyard

ITM: E 669580m, N 691992m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.974160, -6.964036

A first season of excavation took place at Ardreigh between mid-July 2000 and mid-December 2000 (Excavations 2000, No. 458). A second season was undertaken between 12 March and 12 June 2001. A third season is anticipated in 2002.

The site lies 1.8km south of Athy, Co. Kildare, along the proposed route of the realignment of the L18 Athy–Carlow road. It occupies a stretch of land measuring c. 350m north–south by c. 17–20m. This passes through the heart of the medieval borough of Ardreigh. There are three major components to the archaeological evidence uncovered to date.

Medieval cemetery

This occupies the northern end of the site and lies immediately to the east of a modern, walled graveyard. To date c. 200 human burials have been excavated. These were all extended, supine inhumations. They include a mix of male and female, adult and sub-adult, all aligned east–west with the heads to the west. Some of these consisted of multiple burials within the one grave-cut, suggesting that disease or an epidemic may have hit the area during medieval times. The different grave-cuts suggest that some were interred in coffins and others in burial-shrouds. It appears that the graveyard was used into the mid-1600s, as a Charles I Lennox oval farthing (1625–42) was found with the final phase of burials. It is estimated that there may be 500–750 burials in total.

Medieval settlement and industry

The area to the south of the graveyard produced substantial evidence of medieval settlement, agriculture and industry. To date, three building structures have been excavated. One was of stake and post construction, the other two appeared to be of clay daub and wattle construction. One structure contained two substantial furnaces, while another appeared to be a grain store, as remains of carbonised grain were recovered from the floor surface. All three structures were destroyed by fire. The remains of three corn-drying kilns and part of a quernstone were also found, suggesting a strong grain-producing industry on the site. An abundance of medieval artefacts was also recovered. These included four coins, a ring-brooch, a thimble, several needles, two iron arrowheads and thousands of pottery sherds, including local glazed wares and cooking wares, as well as Leinster cooking ware.

Prehistoric occupation

Two large ditches ran east–west across the site. The largest was up to 2m wide and 2m deep. These were sealed by the later medieval activity, particularly by the building structures. Remains of a lignite bracelet were recovered from the fill of one of the ditches. After these ditches were backfilled, several human cremation pits were dug into them. Further excavation is still required to establish the dates of this prehistoric activity, but it is possible that the earliest phase of activity on the site may date from the Neolithic. It is anticipated that a final season of excavation in 2002 will fully resolve the site.