2002:0376 - Ballyarnet, Derry

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Derry Site name: Ballyarnet

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 14A:26 Licence number: AE/02/71

Author: John Ó Néill and Rick Schulting, c/o Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork, Queen’s University, Belfast BT7 1NN.

Site type: Bronze Age lake settlement


ITM: E 644642m, N 921886m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 55.042486, -7.301531

The site of the Ballyarnet investigations lies on the edge of Ballyarnet Lake, 4km north-west of Derry city. The area is on the margin of fens around the lake, where a drainage ditch had exposed some archaeological materials. The ground to the north-west of the site sloped up to Racecourse Road, 200m away and c. 6m above the level of the archaeological deposits.
The deposits exposed had previously produced struck flint and sherds of Bronze Age pottery. Before the excavation, some worked timbers and redeposited clays were visible in section, suggesting that occupation had occurred at the site. A small mound lies 15m to the north-west of the exposed deposit (and is recorded under the same SMR designation), and a burnt mound, recorded as SMR 14A:25, lies at the top of the slope beside Racecourse Road.
Topographic survey, environmental sampling and limited excavation were undertaken at the site in July and August 2002, with the aims of ascertaining the character of the site, procuring samples that would provide information regarding the early prehistoric environment of the area and assessing the continuing risk to the waterlogged deposits. Four trenches were opened. Two cores and a monolith were taken through peat deposits around the lake edge. A sample of charcoal was collected from the eroding section of the burnt mound to the north-west of the excavated area.
The sherds of Bronze Age pottery previously found have now been recognised as Cordoned Urn, and sherds of other Cordoned Urn vessels were recovered, along with a tanged arrowhead, which may be of Causeway basalt. Other artefacts recovered included coarseware sherds, lithics and possible metalworking debris. The sections of the deposits exposed were recorded, and a basic stratigraphic sequence for the site was created. On this basis, it is suggested that the initial construction of a palisaded timber platform was followed by four phases of activity, after which the site may have been inundated.
The survey and excavation at the site have identified that there is a considerable threat of degradation of the archaeological materials due to drainage. Any future management strategies for the site should take this factor into consideration.
An aerial photograph, taken after the completion of the excavation in August 2002, revealed a further site, visible as a cropmark in a field c. 200m to the south-west. At this site an oval cropmark, measuring 60m by 40m, encloses a series of circular anomalies. Another recorded mound, SMR 14A:21, lies between the enclosure and the margins of the fen. The evidence to date suggests that a waterlogged occupation site, of some significance and datable by the presence of Cordoned Urn sherds, is present at SMR 14A:26.