2002:0458 - Site 23, Ballough, Dublin

County: Dublin Site name: Site 23, Ballough

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 01E1138

Author: Robert M. Chapple, 19 Irwin Drive, Belfast BT4 3AR, for Valerie J. Keeley Ltd.

Site type: Possible Bronze Age roasting pit and associated ash/stone pits

ITM: E 718939m, N 754506m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.527036, -6.206089

The site was discovered during monitoring of topsoil-stripping on the line of the Northern Motorway (Phase II: Lissenhall–Balbriggan Bypass), Co. Dublin, for Fingal County Council, carried out by Patricia Lynch for Valerie J. Keeley Ltd (see No. 450 above, 00E0953 ext.). The area investigated covered c. 687.88m2 and lay c. 2.25km west of Lusk and c. 8.75km south-west of Skerries, in generally flat countryside (c. 22m OD).
The central area of the site was dominated by five large pits. C8 was an oblong pit (3.1m by 1.1m by 0.44m) containing twelve fills. The evidence appears to indicate a number of changes in function throughout its lifespan. In the first instance the presence of eight identifiable layers of ashy material at the base of the pit suggests initial use as a receptacle for ash. Although no evidence of fire reddening of the cut surface survived, a function that included the in situ burning of material cannot be ruled out. This phase of activity appears to have been terminated with the laying down of F143, the pink/grey colour of which is interpreted as indicative of exposure to extreme heat. Again, that this discoloration was not evidenced on the sides of the cut suggests that this material was introduced from elsewhere. A single struck flint was also recovered from this fill and may be seen as either a deliberate deposition or an accidental loss. The third change in the use of C8 occurred with the deposition of a demonstrably different material type. In this case F142 and F141 contained large quantities of fire-shattered stone, similar to burnt-mound material. However, the presence of burnt bone and quartz debitage within F141 is unusual in such deposits. Finally, the capping of this material by F140 is interpreted as the result of a process of natural infilling of the remaining section of the C8 pit.
C11 was a circular pit (1.6m by 1.6m by 0.4m) containing three fills, and C12 was a circular pit (1.7m by 1.7m by 0.23m) containing one fill. Morphologically, C11 and C12 were remarkably similar, being circular with comparable profiles and depths. The correspondence also extended to the general character of their fills, as both contained substantial quantities of fire-reddened and cracked stone. These fills were also analogous to the later fills of C8, including F141 and F142. This comparison extended to the broad character of the artefacts recovered from C12, which included flint debitage, struck flint and animal teeth. C11 also produced a single piece of flint debitage.
C14 was an oblong pit (1.85m by 2.2m by 0.35m) containing seven fills, and C77 was a circular pit (1.6m by 1.6m by 0.4m) containing six fills. In morpho-logical terms, C14 bore similarities to C8, while C77 appeared to have more in common with C11 and C12. The seven fills of C14 were chiefly identifiable as clayey and sandy silts with charcoal flecking and quantities of decayed stone. The fills of C77 were also largely identifiable as clayey silts and sandy clays, and finds of unburnt bone and animal teeth were consistent with the previous pits. C14 also produced one piece of burnt flint, and a single piece of flint debitage was recovered from C77. The location of these two features is of particular interest as, although they lay close to the previously described pits, they were at a substantially lower level (c. 0.3m), where they were constantly being inundated by rainwater.
In the absence of radiocarbon determinations it is tempting to ascribe an Early Bronze Age date to this collection of pits, primarily on the basis of their association with the fire-shattered stone of burnt-mound-like appearance.
In the south-eastern part of the site a small area of c. 5.48m2 contained eleven pits, two post-holes and eighteen stake-holes. Of these, C38, a subcircular pit (0.55m by 0.22m by 0.2m), produced a quantity of burnt bone, and C46, an oval, elongated pit (0.16m by 0.14m by 0.14m), produced a single struck flint, a carbonised hazelnut shell (Corylus avellana), a carbonised fruit stone and a single sherd of prehistoric pottery.
This collection of eleven pits, two post-holes and eighteen stake-holes is difficult to interpret and may represent a number of successive actions and events, unrelated to each other. Although, in plan, some of these features appear to exhibit certain linear qualities, none can be rationalised sufficiently to extrapolate any form of defined structure.