2003:1036 - LUFFANY, Kilkenny

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kilkenny Site name: LUFFANY

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E0973

Author: Angus Stephenson, Maydene, Hull Road, Dunnington, York Y019 5LR, for ADS Ltd.

Site type: Fulacht fiadh; post-medieval

ITM: E 664294m, N 616339m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.294947, -7.057448

Site 11, associated with the construction of the N25 Waterford Bypass, lies on both sides of the stream which forms the boundary of Luffany and Rathpatrick townlands in Co. Kilkenny. Field A to the north and an intervening field with no archaeological interest lie within Luffany, whilst Field B lies within Rathpatrick. Both fields are on the west side of the N25.

Field A is bounded to the south by a stream and thick vegetation and on the west by another thick hedge. Ground level tips down in these directions and the land becomes more boggy to the west. The area examined was cut by several modern land drains, generally running from north-east to south-west. The courses of six former stream channels were also traced across this field, five of them running from north to south and the sixth running from east to west, all taking a very meandering path. These channels were up to 2m wide and 0.6m deep. Although no finds were recovered, they are thought to have been allowed to silt up or backfill at the time of enclosure in the late 18th or early 19th centuries. The stream nearest to the road appeared to have been recut by human hand.

Field B lay on a gentle slope down to the west in its eastern half and had a flat boggy area next to the modern stream in the west. The change in the slope also coincided with a change in the subsoil from orange-brown sandy clay to grey marl. Topsoil was stripped over an area of c. 35m2 where a large spread of charcoal and burnt stones had been recorded in testing. A small number of post-medieval potsherds were found during this operation.

Two parallel ditches, 6m apart, 1m wide and 0.5m deep, ran north–south across the stripped area. The area between these and immediately adjacent to them was conspicuously rockier than the areas further away and the ditches are interpreted as modern redundant field boundaries, with rocks dumped between them generated by modern ground clearance. They may have dated from the 18th century and a small stream shown here on a small-scale map of 1764 had disappeared by the time of the first-edition OS map of 1839. Frequent tree- and shrub-holes in this area suggested that it was densely overgrown.

Most of the burnt material lay between the two ditches and its maximum width, north–south, was 14m. Two large pits containing burnt stones were excavated to the east of the eastern ditch. The first of these was probably originally oval shaped in plan and 1.2m wide but had been truncated by the ditch; it was 0.25m deep. The second was rectangular and measured 1.3m by 0.8m and was also 0.25m deep. Two further oval-shaped pits were cut through the upper layers of the burnt material, each measuring 1.5m by 1m by 0.5m. The depth of the deposits of burnt stones did not exceed 0.2m at any point, except as backfill to the troughs.

A large central circular pit under the mound, partially under one of the upper pits, measured 2m by 1m deep. This earliest pit had post-holes in its edge and there were post-holes close to the edge of some of the others. None of the pits showed evidence of having being lined.

These remains are interpreted as a fulacht fiadh, or burnt mound. Fulachta fiadh are generally believed to be prehistoric sites used for communal cooking, although other suggested uses have included bathing and textile production and a site such as this might have supported a combination of such uses. They are usually dated to the Bronze Age and, although no associated finds were recovered, it is expected that carbon dating of samples will ascribe a similar date to this example. It has some of the usual components – a crescentic shape of typical size and successive troughs backfilled with burnt material – although, at c. 50m distant, it is slightly further away from a water source than usual.

The area to the west contained many dark silty patches, the largest being 5m in diameter, in the top of the natural marl, which were investigated using a mini-digger. These were thought possibly to be marl-extraction pits, as this activity had been carried on in the field within living memory. This may have been true of some of the larger pits, although the shallower ones appear to have been only silt-filled depressions in the subsoil. None of the pits exceeded 0.6m in depth, with the majority being less than 0.3m deep. They are considered to have been of minimal archaeological significance.