2003:1043 - RATHPATRICK, Kilkenny

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kilkenny Site name: RATHPATRICK

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E0861

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

Site type: Fulacht fiadh and corn-drying kiln

ITM: E 664297m, N 615356m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.286113, -7.057585

Site 10 of the work associated with the construction of the N25 Waterford Bypass lies on both sides of the stream which forms the boundary of Kilmurry and Rathpatrick townlands in Co. Kilkenny. Fields A, C and D lie in Rathpatrick, whilst Field B, in which no remains of archaeological significance were identified, lies in Kilmurry.

Field B contained the former line of a stream channel meandering downhill from the north, on the west side of which lay the remains of a mound of burnt stones, ash and charcoal in a crescent shape with a distance of 10m between the horns on the north side and a maximum length of 10m from north to south. Between the horns lay an oval backfilled pit or trough measuring 1.68m by 1.08m by 0.38m deep. Under the mound itself lay a larger trough, measuring 2.3m by 1.92m by 0.75m deep, beside a hard compacted area of burning measuring 2m by 1.5m, probably representing the position of a large bonfire. These post-dated two other troughs, measuring 1.75m by 1.67m by 0.3m deep and 1.5m by 0.9m by 0.4m deep. None of these pits had any extraneous linings but all were cut into natural underlying clay.

These remains are interpreted as a fulacht fiadh, or burnt mound. 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. 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.

Fields A and D contained the remains of a small rural settlement, provisionally dated to the late 13th and early 14th centuries by about 100 sherds of imported green-glazed and locally produced pottery.

Remains included a corn-drying kiln, comprising a stoke-hole measuring 4m by 1m, containing large quantities of raked-out ash, charcoal and carbonised grain, a partially robbed-out stone-lined flue, 3m long by 0.8m wide, and a drying pit measuring 2m by 1m at the opposite end of the flue from the stoke-pit. This kiln was protected by a shallow drainage gully. A second such gully containing carbonised grain suggests that there may have been a similar or associated feature under the thickly overgrown modern hedge and wall boundary between the two fields.

In the second field, down the slope to the west, the former channels of two streams joined. A bronze stick pin of medieval type was found under the fills of one of these channels and a timber feature consisting of six planks, 2m long, laid edge to edge, lay under them at the junction of the channels, possibly representing a firm bed for fording the streams. These streams were rerouted to their present course along the field boundaries after becoming filled with silt and washed gravel.

On the banks of the streams were a large number of features cut into the subsoil. Many were of typical size and shape to have been small post- or stake-holes. The patterns made by them have not yet been conclusively interpreted, but some of them seem to represent a series of square sheds or shelters, 4–5m wide, possibly for keeping wood fuel and grain dry, with associated timber-and-wattle fencing. Five larger cut features, pits measuring on average 1–2m across and 0.5m deep, lay close to these post- and stake-hole groups, three of which contained medieval pottery. Narrow linear features running for several metres between these post-hole groups across and down the slope in parallel groups appear to be the impressions left by cartwheel ruts.

These remains appear to represent evidence for 14th-century transporting, storing and drying of grain in an operation carried on a short distance from the nearest habitation, possibly a village at Rathpatrick at the top of the slope on which they were located.