NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Donegal Site name: ALTAGHADERRY, CO. DONEGAL

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR DG055-030 Licence number: 02E1474


Site type: Early Bronze Age graves

ITM: E 637644m, N 915888m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.989174, -7.411807

Introduction (AH)
In April 2002 the NMI was notified of the discovery of a short cist near Imlick, Co. Donegal. The cist had been discovered some time previously (probably in 1999 or 2000) by the landowner, Mr Charles Cole, while ploughing on his farm. His plough had dislodged the capstone of the cist, and he subsequently removed the capstone and investigated the interior, removing some pottery. Some time later Mr Cole informed Mr Ian Leitch, an archaeological enthusiast from Derry, about the cist. Mr Leitch, along with Mr Tommy Gallagher, visited the site in March 2002 and, fearing further damage, removed most of the remaining pottery, along with some cremated bone. They persuaded Mr Cole to replace the capstone over the cist and reported the discovery to the Environment and Heritage Service of Northern Ireland (who subsequently notified the NMI). In April the site was visited by Andrew Halpin. By this time the field had been set with potatoes, which were not due to be harvested until the autumn. The excavation of the cist therefore took place in February 2003 and revealed very considerable disturbance of the cist contents. This report is based on Halpin’s account of the excavation. The pottery was examined by Helen Roche in 2002. The human remains were examined by Laureen Buckley.

Fig. 3.19—Location map, Altaghaderry, Co. Donegal.

Location (Fig. 3.19)
The site was in Altaghaderry townland, east Co. Donegal, immediately adjacent to the border with County Derry.35 The cist was situated at an altitude of c. 60m above sea level, near the crest of a low, drumlin-like ridge running south-east/north-west on fairly level ground, having good views to the west and south but overlooked by high ground to the north-east (Holywell Hill) and east. The soil consists of stony, sandy subsoil, rich in shale and quartz, overlain by 0.3–0.4m of light, loamy ploughsoil.

Description of site
The cist was roughly rectangular in plan, with its long axis aligned north/south (Pl. 20). Internally it measured 0.85m long by 0.625m wide by 0.51m high. It was constructed of four main slabs: two thin slabs at the eastern and western sides and smaller slabs closing the northern and southern ends. A few smaller slabs were also laid horizontally above the northern and southern end slabs to raise the height to that of the sides (Fig. 3.20). The southern end slab displayed three possible shallow cup-marks—two are approximately 0.06–0.08m in diameter and 0.02m deep, while the third measured 0.1–0.12m in diameter and 0.02m in depth. The floor of the cist was paved with a number of small slate slabs. A difference was noted between the southern half of the cist, which was paved with larger slabs of blue-grey slate, and the northern half, where the slate slabs were smaller and more pink/brown in colour, and set at a slightly lower level. The floor sloped slightly downwards from south to north.

Fig. 3.20—Plans and section of grave, Altaghaderry, Co. Donegal.

The cist had originally been sealed by a single large, subrectangular capstone, measuring 1.11m long by 0.86m wide by 0.1m thick. The material recovered from Mr Cole and Mr Leitch and through excavation indicates that the cist originally contained a cremation (containing nine to eleven individuals) and four vessels. Removal of the capstone revealed that the cist had been backfilled, almost to the top, with mixed soil. This backfill was removed, revealing an apparent stone setting at the northern end of the cist, with the remainder of the cist occupied by a deposit, c. 0.2–0.25m deep, of compact, mixed soil with many stones, clay lumps, fragments of pottery and flecks of cremated bone. The bone and pottery were both found to be soft and friable and the deposit proved to be of relatively modern origin (containing three modern china fragments), representing a recent phase of backfilling. On removal of this layer, a lighter sandy layer with abundant cremated bone was revealed, occupying the entire floor of the cist, apart from the northern end. Here the ‘stone setting’ also proved to be a form of backfill in an area where all deposits (including the lower backfill layer) had been removed, exposing the stone-paved floor. Over the remainder of the cist, the lighter sandy layer with cremated bone represented all that remained of the original cremation deposit. It lay directly on the paved floor of the cist and covered practically the entire cist, apart from the northern end (where it had obviously been removed) and the south-western and south-eastern corners. Only a few small fragments of pottery remained in this deposit, apart from the south-western corner, where several sherds of one vessel were recovered, suggesting that this was the original position of the vessel. One might reasonably speculate that a second vessel was originally located in the south-eastern corner, and perhaps also that the other two vessels were located at the northern end.

Pottery (HR) (Fig. 3.21)
The assemblage is numbered 02E1474:1–4.
The rescue excavation produced the remains of four bipartite vases. The sherds were in a disturbed position, except for a few sherds representing the fourth vessel. Despite the fragmentary nature of the vessels, all appear to represent bipartite vases. The thick-walled fabric of vessels 1 and 2 is reminiscent of bowls, but the shape and decoration are consistent with vase types. The few available dates for vases range from between c. 1970 and 1520 cal. BC, but because of the slightly bowl-influenced nature of vessels 1 and 2 it is possible that this burial is earlier in date. The known dates for bowls cluster between c. 2460 and 1980 cal. BC (Mount and Hartnett 1993, 60; Mount 1997a, 38).
The vessels are of varying quality in construction, in surface preparation and in the application of decorative motifs. Vessels 1 and 2 are especially crudely constructed and lack accomplishment. Although little survives of vessels 3 and 4, they are superior in quality. The vessels were coil/ring-built, as is apparent from sherds from vessel 3, where coil breaks are present. The colour of the fabric is mainly orange/brown on the exterior and interior surfaces with black cores, and the sherds range in thickness from 9.7mm to 16.3mm. A creamcoloured patina is present on the surface of vessels 1 and 2 and was probably caused by mineral-enriched water seeping or dripping into the cist over time. There are 62 fragments and ‘crumbs’ (103.32g) too small or indistinct to be assigned to particular vessels.

Bipartite vase 02E1474:1
A significant portion of a bipartite vase, consisting of seven rim sherds, four base-angle sherds and eleven body sherds; hard but crumbly fabric with a moderate content of relatively fine inclusions (≤ 2.1mm). Areas of the vessel have a cream-coloured patina on both the exterior and interior surface. Slight traces of carbonised matter are present on the interior surface.

Fig. 3.21—Ceramic vessels, Altaghaderry, Co. Donegal.

Decoration is present on the interior surface of the rim in the form of closely spaced oblique incised lines and seven irregularly spaced concentric incised lines around the circumference of the rim. Short oblique strokes are present on the external edge of the rim. Filled triangles executed with irregularly formed incised lines are present immediately below the rim and on the cavetto neck. This is followed by a panel of false relief consisting of three rows of elongated impressed motifs. The lower portion of the vessel is decorated with incised basket-weave motifs. The vessel has a dark brown exterior surface, a buff-brown interior surface and a black core.
Dimensions: H 13cm; ext. D rim 11.5cm; D base 6.5cm; T 0.97–1.12cm; Wt 800.42g.
Sherds representing this vessel form most of a thick-walled vessel with overall decoration, executed with inexpertly incised and impressed motifs, forming three zones of decoration, which is similar in shape to a bipartite vase from Moylarg, Co. Antrim (Ó Ríordáin and Waddell 1993, 280, no. 592). Decoration on the interior surface of the rim of vases is a common characteristic and a similarly decorated bipartite vase has been found at Cloghskelt, Co. Down (ibid., 259, no. 492). Filled triangle motifs are also a relatively common decorative feature on vases, with similar examples found on bipartite vases at Ballynahow, Co. Cork, Killycolman, Co. Donegal, and Cloghskelt, Co. Down (ibid., 255, nos 472, 482, 492). Basketweave decoration is not a common motif but similar unaccomplished examples are present on bipartite vases from Cloghskelt, Co. Down, and on a vessel without a known locality (ibid., 260, no. 499; 280, no. 589).

Bipartite vase 02E1474:2
Sherds from a bipartite vase, consisting of eight rim sherds and a rim fragment, one base sherd, seven body sherds and nineteen fragments. Heavy, thick-walled, crudely executed vessel with a high content of large inclusions (≤ 6.4mm). The surfaces are uneven, with inclusions visible on both surfaces. A creamy patina is present on areas of the external surface. Carbonised matter is present on the interior surface. The exterior surface of the vessel is decorated with two wide, shallow grooves on the area immediately below the rim and on the cavetto rim. This is followed by panels of false relief in the form of vertical and horizontal impressions, interrupted with horizontal grooves. The vessel has an orange/black exterior surface, a brown interior surface and a black core.
Dimensions: estimated D rim 11.7cm; T 1.11–1.63cm; Wt 529.46g.
This is an extremely heavy, thick-walled, crudely executed vessel. It has similarities in its unaccomplished decoration to bipartite vessels from County Down (exact location unknown), Blanchfieldsbog, Co. Kilkenny, and Fourknocks (II), Co. Meath (Ó Ríordáin and Waddell 1993, 262, no. 511; 267, nos 533–5; 273, no. 559). Horizontal grooves below the rim are also present on a bipartite vase from Cush, Co. Limerick (ibid., 269, no. 541).

Bipartite vase 02E1474:3
Sherds from a bipartite vase, consisting of seven rim sherds, 21 body sherds and fourteen fragments; out-turned rim with internal bevel; hard, crumbly fabric with moderate to high content of inclusions (0.87cm). Inclusions are visible on both surfaces. Traces of carbonised matter are present on the interior surface. Decoration is present on the interior surface of the rim in the form of incised herringbone motifs. This motif also covers the exterior surface of the vessel, where it is more deeply incised. The exterior surface of the vessel is buff-orange in colour, the interior surface is buff and the core is black. Little survives of this vessel but the form of the rim and the decorative arrangement are consistent with vases. The exact profile is not immediately obvious but, as no recognisable angled shoulders are present, it is most likely to represent a bipartite vase. Finely incised horizontal and vertical herringbone motifs are common on vases, but the most similar examples are vessels from Moylarg, Co. Antrim, Oaktate, Co. Louth, and Letterkeen, Co. Mayo (Ó Ríordáin and Waddell 1993, 251, no. 452; 269, no. 544; 272, no. 554).
Dimensions: T 1.09–1.57cm; Wt 475.58g.

Bipartite vase 02E1474:4
Sherds from a bipartite vase, consisting of two rim sherds and three rim fragments, one baseangle sherd and two base-angle fragments, six body sherds, 31 fragments and 29 crumbs. The rim is in-turned and bevelled; hard, crumbly fabric with a moderate to high content of inclusions (≤ 0.67cm). Coil/ring break is visible on two sherds. Carbonised matter is present on the interior surface. The internal surface of the rim is decorated with radially positioned lightly incised panels forming a herringbone pattern. The exterior surface of the vessel is decorated with horizontal panels of incised herringbone motifs, interrupted with horizontal incised lines. The lower portion of the vessel is decorated with fine, vertical, incised panels of herringbone motifs. The vessel has a buff-orange exterior surface, a buff interior surface and a black core.
Dimensions: T 1.11–1.61cm; Wt 283.54g.
The in-turned rim form of this vessel is similar to bipartite vases from Drumcaw, Co. Down, and Letterkeen, Co. Mayo (Ó Ríordáin and Waddell 1993, 261, no. 506; 272, no. 556). The relatively fine herringbone motifs decorating this vessel are similar to vases from Cloughskelt, Co. Down, and Cashel, Co. Mayo (ibid., 258, no. 488; 271, no. 551).

Comparative sites
The early Bronze Age cist burial at Altaghaderry is an addition to the large number of bowland vase-associated burials known from this region of Ireland. Up to 34 known early Bronze Age burials have been recorded from County Donegal, 27 consisting of isolated cists. Thirteen vases, seven of bipartite form, have been found associated with these burials, in comparison to fifteen of the bowl form. On a wider scale, 72 early Bronze Age burials are located within a 40km radius of Altaghaderry. They consist (inclusive of County Donegal) of 42 isolated cists, nine cists within mounds or cairns, five flat cemeteries, three finds of food vessels within wedge tombs and two examples within pits. In total, 22 vases were found associated with these burials, nine of which were of bipartite form. The dominant ceramic vessel associated with these burials was the bowl, reaching a total of 59 vessels.

Comment (AH)
A sample from the cremated remains (02E1474:5) was dated to 3610±70 BP,36 which calibrates to 2195–1768 BC at 95% probability. Brindley (2007, 255) places the vases from the cist in stage 1 of the development of the vase tradition, which is dated to between 2000/1990 BC and 1920 BC. The occurrence of four vessels of the same type in a single cist is a very unusual feature of this site, although it should be noted that three bipartite vases were found in a cist at Bredagh Glen, also Co. Donegal (this volume, pp 120–7). The minimum number of individuals present is at least nine, with the possibility that there may have been eleven (see report below for details), including adults and children. Clearly the question arises as to whether or not the human remains and the vessels represent one or more phases of burial within the confines of the cist. The chance nature of the discovery, however, and the disturbance of the site did not allow it to be excavated in a manner that might have identified such differentiation.


Description of cremation 02E1474:5
The bone was almost entirely white in colour and most of it had a chalky texture, indicating very efficient cremation. It was also considerably warped and there were numerous horizontal fissures. A total of 10,187 fragments of bone were collected, weighing 4,111g. The weight of a full adult cremation can vary from 1,600g to 3,600g (McKinley 1989), although in practice it is rare to get more than 1,000g of bone from a single cremation. Therefore it is obvious from the sheer weight of bone alone that this is a multiple cremation with more than one individual present. The size and fragmentation of the bone are detailed in Table 3.12, with the largest fragment being 108mm in length.

Table 3.12—Bone fragmentation in cremation 02E1474:5.

It can be seen from Table 3.12 that 60% of the bone consisted of medium-sized fragments (10–25mm), only 10% consisted of very small fragments (<10mm) and there was a significant proportion of large fragments, although only 8% were very large. The absence of very small fragments and the significant proportion of large fragments suggest that most of the bone had not been highly crushed at the time it was placed in the cist. The considerable disturbance of the cist at various times may have meant that the bone became more highly fragmented. This has resulted in an increase in the number of medium-sized fragments. Medium-sized fragments can also be present if there are juveniles as well as adults in the sample.

Even though the bones were moderately fragmented it was still possible to identify 1,996g (49%) of the sample. This is similar to what would be expected from a Bronze Age cremation of this nature, although when there is very little breakup of the bones with a high proportion of large fragments the percentage of identified bone can be as high as 84% (Buckley 1997; 1998). The proportions of different parts of the skeleton that were identified are detailed in Table 3.13.
Virtually every part of the skeleton is represented, although in fact almost half of the sample consisted of skull and teeth fragments, with virtually every other bone being present in much lower proportions than expected. The proportions of various parts of the skeleton should be the same regardless of the number or size of the individuals present in a cremation. In practice, however, it is often the case that where there is more than one individual present in a cremation, the proportion of skull is much higher than normal. This is because even small fragments of skull are easy to recognise and therefore virtually all the skull fragments in a sample can be identified, whereas small to medium fragments of long bones cannot always be distinguished from one another and their identification is therefore reduced. Table 3.14 details the proportion of the various parts of the skeleton represented in this cremation.

Table 3.13—Weights and percentages of identified fragments in cremation 02E1474:5.

Table 3.14—Proportion of the various skeletal parts in cremation 02E1474:5.

In addition, a small proportion of the sample (0.5%) consisted of infant bones. It can be seen that in this cremation the proportion of skull was much higher than that normally found in a cremation. It seems to have been collected at the expense of all the other skeletal elements, which are in a much lower proportion than they should have been. The high proportion of skull is another indicator that more than one individual is present.

Description of identified fragments
There was a large quantity of skull fragments, some quite large. Identification was based on particular elements of certain bones that had no possibility of confusion of numbers or sides. Frontal bone: elements of frontal bones present included five foramen caecum and crista frontalis, seven left orbits and six right orbits. At least one left and two right orbits were from infant, possibly foetal, skulls. There was also one left orbit and a right orbit from a juvenile, one left orbit from an adolescent or female, one right female orbit and two left male orbits. The other orbits were from adults. The minimum number of individuals based on the frontal bones was therefore two infants, one juvenile, one female, two males and two other adults.
Temporal bone: there were eight right and five left petrous parts of the temporal bone. Two left and two right bones were not fully mature and could have been from pre-term infants, possibly from foetuses of less than six months’ gestation. One of the left bones was probably from a juvenile and one of the right bones was also probably from a juvenile. Three of the right and two of the left bones were definitely from adults and the other two right bones may also have been from adults. There were four left and two right mandibular fossae with anterior/inferior temporal sutures. This represents a minimum of four adults. In addition, there were two left mandibular fossae from infant/juvenile bones. The minimum number of individuals based on the temporal bone was four adults, one juvenile and two foetuses, and one possible adult.
Occipital bone: there were several large fragments of occipital bone, with six external occipital protuberances present. This represents a minimum of six individuals; at least one of these was male.
Other cranial bones: there was a complete left and right nasal bone, one left and two right zygomatic bones, a left and a right orbital part of an adult maxilla, a body of sphenoid from a juvenile, a body of sphenoid from a foetus, and a left and a right lateral occipital bone probably also from a foetus.

There were several fragments of mandibles; most of them were small and consisted of one socket only, so it was virtually impossible to reconstruct them fully. There were, however, a few larger fragments with several (empty) sockets visible, and these are described below.

There were several teeth that, although not fully formed, had survived intact, indicating that they had not been erupted at the time of death. These consisted of some deciduous teeth and some incompletely formed permanent teeth.
Deciduous teeth: four canines with crowns one quarter formed, probably from the same infant, a neonate; an upper deciduous first molar with the occlusal surface just formed, probably also from a neonate; an upper deciduous second molar with crown half-formed, approximately 7–11 months.
Permanent teeth: an upper central incisor, 21, with crown half-formed, 21⁄2–31⁄2 years; two premolars with the crowns one quarter formed, 3–5 years; the first lower molar with crown one quarter formed, 11⁄2–21⁄2 years. The other teeth that had erupted consisted of several shattered crowns, five premolar roots, roots of an upper third molar, six anterior tooth roots and twelve partial roots from other molars.

The vertebrae included at least seven cervical bodies, the dens articulation areas from at least two first cervical vertebrae and also the dens from two second cervical vertebrae. There were three arches from second cervical vertebrae, two of which were probably juvenile. The right side of the arch of a second cervical vertebra from an infant was present and there were a few other infant half-arches. Also present were four thoracic bodies and several fragments of fragmented thoracic and lumbar arches. There was a complete body of a fifth lumbar vertebra and the right side of a body and part of the left side of another L5. There was also part of one other lumbar body. The body of S2 and fragments of the bodies of two other sacral vertebrae were present, and there was a large part of the left ala of another sacrum.

Although there were several small fragments of ribs, the minimum number based on the articular surfaces present was ten left and ten right adult ribs, and fourteen left and five right juvenile ribs.

There were several large fragments as well as numerous small fragments present. An almost complete auricular surface from a left ilium was present, as well as part of the auricular surface and posterior auricular area from a right ilium. There were also one other right and one other left partial auricular surfaces. A larger fragment from around the sciatic notch area of a male was present, and there was one other sciatic notch, also from a male, but the sides were unknown. The inferior part of the acetabulum and part of the ischium of a right bone were present. There were also fragments from two other ischia, possibly from the left side. Other fragments of acetabulum and iliac crest were also present. A fragment of left ilium from a juvenile with partial auricular surface was present and there was another partial ilium from a juvenile of side unknown.

A left acromial spine from an adult scapula was present, as well as three other unsided acromions. Two coracoid processes and two glenoid fossae were present. There were also fragments of the lateral and superior borders.

There were a minimum of two left and one right clavicle shafts and two sternal ends from adult bones. A left and a right juvenile/adolescent bone were also present.

An almost complete humerus head from a right bone was present and part of the greater tuberosity was visible. Several other fragments of proximal joint ends were present, representing at least four other adult bones. There were numerous fragments from the proximal and middle parts of the shafts of at least two left and two right bones. The distal shaft from just above the distal joint surfaces of two left and two right bones were also present. There were four incomplete distal joint surfaces with parts of the capitulums and trochleas present. Again they were from two left and two right adult bones. Also present was part of the proximal and distal parts of the shaft of a juvenile bone and an almost complete proximal epiphysis from a juvenile.
Radius This consisted mainly of shaft fragments from the proximal, middle and distal areas of the shaft. There were also two proximal ends from adult bones and a minimum of two distal ends. The distal part of a shaft from one juvenile/adolescent was present.

Fragments included a large fragment of the proximal shaft of a left ulna with part of the radial articular surface present. There was a similar fragment of shaft from another bone, possibly a right ulna. Two fragments from the olecranon were also present. There were several fragments of the mid- and distal shaft, including the distal third of a shaft with part of the distal articular surface present. A fragment from a second distal articular surface was also present, as well as one styloid process.

Carpals, metacarpals and phalanges
Carpal bones included a complete left lunate, a complete right lunate also from an adult although the bone was smaller than the left bone, parts of two left and one right scaphoid bones, a left trapezium, a fragment of another trapezium, a left trapezoid and part of one other trapezoid, part of a triquetral bone and two partial pisiforms. Also present were fragments of joint ends and shafts from at least eleven metacarpals, including one first and one second metacarpal. There were at least twenty proximal hand phalanges, seventeen middle phalanges and thirteen distal phalanges, including two complete middle phalanges and seven complete distal phalanges, one of which was from an adult thumb. Also present were eight proximal phalanges from a juvenile or infant skeleton.

Fragments included a virtually complete head and part of the neck of an adult bone as well as one other partial head and neck. There were several fragments from the proximal, middle and distal shaft areas with fragments of linea aspera from at least two adult bones; two lesser trochanters were also present. There were fragments from the distal joint surfaces of at least three bones, although it could not be determined whether they were from adults or adolescents. The neck and part of the proximal shaft from a left femur from a juvenile/adolescent with unfused epiphysis was present. A proximal epiphysis was also present and there was part of the mid-shaft area from a juvenile bone. A neck and part of the proximal shaft from a right juvenile/adolescent bone was present. A fragment of the distal end of a juvenile/adolescent shaft with part of the metaphysis visible was also present.

At least one left and one right patella were present, and there were probably at least two other patellae present.

There were several fragments of shaft present, including the medial and lateral surfaces. There were also fragments from near the proximal end of the posterior surface with the nutrient foramina of at least two bones visible, and there were fragments from the mid- and distal shaft areas. Several fragments of proximal joint surfaces remained, with at least three medial condyles present and one lateral condyle. There were also two distal joint surfaces.

Most of the fragments were from the proximal, middle and distal areas of the shaft. There were also two distal joint surfaces from right bones and one other distal end.

The tarsal bones included at least one calcaneum, fragments from at least three tali, one navicular, two cuboid and two cuneiform bones. The metatarsals consisted of the heads of two first metatarsals, eleven other metatarsal heads and twelve metatarsal shafts, including one from a fourth and one from a fifth metatarsal. The heads of two juvenile metatarsals were also present. There were at least fifteen proximal phalanges, including two first proximal phalanges. Also present were four middle and five distal phalanges. The smallest middle and distal phalanges were fused.

Minimum number of individuals
There were several repetitions of skeletal elements, indicating that more than one individual was present. The most frequently occurring skeletal element was the petrous portion of the temporal bone. This is the thickest individual bone part of the skull and is easily recognised, making it a valuable tool for determining the minimum number of individuals in a cremation. In this case there were eight petrous temporal bones from the right side, indicating that at least eight individuals were present. Two of the bones were not fully developed and were probably from foetal remains. The most likely explanation for this is either that there were two females present who were pregnant at the time of death or that one female was expecting twins. One petrous temporal bone from each side appeared to be from a juvenile. Three of the petrous temporal bones were definitely from adults but it was uncertain whether the other two were from adults. Another area of the temporal bone that was recovered was the mandibular fossa and these indicated that there were four adults and two infant/juveniles present. The evidence from the frontal bones indicates that there were two infant or foetal skulls, a juvenile, a female, two males and two other adults. This makes a total of eight, the same number as the petrous temporal bones.
The evidence from the teeth suggests that there may have been more individuals present. The problem with the dentition from cremation deposits is that they can be impossible to reconstruct accurately since the mandibles and maxillae are frequently very fragmented. In addition, although unerupted teeth are easily identified since they are usually intact, they may not have all been collected from the pyre.
There were at least three adult mandibles and two adult maxillae present. There were a number of partial juvenile dentitions present:
(1) a neonate;
(2) a younger juvenile aged at least 11⁄2 years and less than seven years at the time of death;
(3) a young juvenile aged 21⁄2–6 years at the time of death.
Although the juvenile teeth present largely fitted into these age groups, there was also evidence for another infant aged 7–11 months. The evidence from the teeth indicates that there was a neonate, an infant aged 7–11 months, and two juveniles, one aged 11⁄2–7 years and the other aged 21⁄2–6 years.
Taking together the evidence from all the skull bones, it seems that there were two foetuses, a neonate, an infant aged 7–11 months, two younger juveniles, a female, two males and two other adults. This gives a total minimum number of individuals present of eleven. Nevertheless, since the foetuses could have been undelivered at the time of cremation it is probably more accurate to say that the minimum number of individuals cremated is nine.

Summary and conclusions
This cist contained over 10,000 fragments of bone with a total weight of 4,111g. The bone was all white in colour and most of it had a chalky texture. This indicates that it was very efficiently cremated. Most of the bone was warped, with numerous horizontal fissures present. The proportion of small fragments was very low, with most of the sample consisting of medium sized fragments. The proportion of large and very large fragments was sufficient to suggest that the bones had not been significantly crushed after their collection from the pyre. Most of the crushing may have occurred when the cist was disturbed. The presence of juveniles or infants might also have increased the proportion of medium-sized and smaller fragments.
The sheer weight of bone recovered suggests that more than one individual was present, and this was indeed the case. Nearly 50% of the bone could be identified and the evidence from the skull bones suggests that there were at least five adults, including two males and one female, two younger juveniles less than seven years, an infant aged 7–11 months, a neonate and two foetuses probably less than five months in utero. This makes a total of eleven individuals.

35. Parish of Killea, barony of Raphoe North. SMR DG055-030——. IGR 237700 415900.
36. GrA-24174.