2003:983 - BALLYNAMONA (Site 5), Kilkenny

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kilkenny Site name: BALLYNAMONA (Site 5)

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E0865

Author: Joanna Wren, for ADS Ltd.

Site type: Klin, Burnt mound, Road - road/trackway

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 662378m, N 615252m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.285398, -7.085734

Testing was undertaken at Site 5 in the townland of Ballynamona, Co. Kilkenny (Excavations 2002, No. 989, 02E0177). Archaeological material found was fully excavated in autumn 2003. Work at this site was undertaken as part of the pre-construction mitigation of the N25 Waterford Bypass, funded by the National Roads Authority through Waterford City Council.

The site consisted of a burnt mound and its associated features, wetland fences and a pathway that probably pre-dates the fulacht fiadh, historic field drains and a kiln. The burnt mound was located 44m from the western boundary and 28m from the southern boundary of a pasture field on the west side of a valley at the foot of the western side of the hill, at Airmount Cross, where standing stones (see No. 1033, Excavations 2003, 03E0716) were sited. The main bulk of the mound was in the lower east side of the field, on a wet, peat-filled hollow, beside a drain. Numerous natural springs were present in the area and the drain was on the line of an earlier stream, one of a group running south to north across the site.

There are three main phases of activity. Firstly, there seems to be use of the wetland by fencing of areas and constructing pathways across it. Shortly after this, the area became the site of a burnt mound of probable Bronze Age date. Within the period of use, there is evidence of repeated hearth and pit construction. After this occupation, the site was abandoned, with the local area eventually becoming open pastureland. The majority of the most recent features seemed to be attempts to drain the wetland. There was no evidence for cultivation of the ground or later settlement in the area, apart from a possible corn-drying kiln. In fact, the site is still pasture today, although of poor quality. Spreads of white sandstone near the post-medieval drains west of the mound may have been the remains of pathways also of post-medieval date.

In the centre of the burnt mound, north of the earlier trackway, a subrectangular cut was made to construct the kiln. Within this cut were two timbers, with their long axes orientated north–south. These supported two large, flat, cracked stone slabs, which formed the base of a round stone-lined pit constructed at the west end of the trench. Twelve stone slabs lined the outer rim of the pit, but the walls were unlined. The south side of the pit was left open to the remaining part of the trench, which formed the passage of the resultant keyhole-shaped feature. Part of the trench was lined with white sandstone slabs. A semicircular setting of stones survived in marl at the south-east end of the passage, cut through to the east by a later drain.

However, there were a few unusual features, which may suggest an interpretation other than a kiln. The walls of the pit to the west were unlined, which would have left the drying chamber open to the wet peat; and there was no evidence for in situ burning in the circular pit or at the other end of the channel, which would have been the furnace pit. The pits and trench were backfilled with fire-shattered stones – debris from the burnt mound; and it is also possible that the feature (the kiln) was actually the remains of a complex hearth, kept dry by a drain which exited into the watercourse to the east.

A series of features, mostly drains, were cut into the burnt mound. One trench cut the stone setting at the east end of the flue or drain. Another 2.2m to the south-west was a shallow slot that contained a deposit of black sandy silt and blackened shattered stones. It may originally have held a timber plank, possibly part of a fence oriented north-east/south-west.

At the western limit of the burnt mound was a linear right-angled trench cut into the marl. It was filled with clean, heat-shattered stones, which contained a sherd of post-medieval brick. Blackened heat-shattered stones, grit and charcoal, redeposited from the burnt mound, covered these features. Just beyond the eastern edge of the burnt mound, a series of 19th-century stone drains, orientated east–west, cut through the stream.

The most important things to be resolved about this site are the dates of each of the three phases. In the case of the timber features and the burnt mound, dates may be established by radiocarbon dating of the post samples and charcoal from the soil samples. The species of timbers used in the fencing and pathways will need to be identified and assessed as to their suitability for dendrochronological dating. The period over which the mound was used will have to be established, as well as a sequence for the use of the various hearths and pits. The date and function of the possible kiln feature can be determined by radiocarbon dating and environmental analysis of samples taken from it.

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