2003:1054 - BALLYDAVIS, Laois

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Laois Site name: BALLYDAVIS

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E0966

Author: Ros Ó Maoldúin, for Valerie J. Keeley Ltd.

Site type: Furnace

Period/Dating: Undetermined

ITM: E 650898m, N 700166m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.049727, -7.240855

This site was excavated as part of the works carried out in advance of the M7 Heath–Mayfield motorway construction. Ballydavis Site B was near the Ballydavis Iron Age complex (No. 1053, 03E0151 and No. 1055, 03E0905, Excavations 2003; Keeley 1999). The excavation uncovered a number of features, including two deep bowl-shaped features and a pit that was partially surrounded by a slot-trench. The two bowl-shaped features exhibited heavy oxidisation on the edges of their cuts and contained ferrous slag. Features of this nature have traditionally been interpreted as furnaces. The intensity of activity and quantity of slag retrieved here does not suggest a smelting site. Crew and Rehren (2002, 96) suggest that ‘bowl furnaces and “furnace bottoms” reported from a number of prehistoric and Early Christian sites are better regarded as the remains of smithing hearths and smithing hearth slags’. It is hoped that analyses of the slag retrieved will shed further light on the ‘myth of Irish iron smelting in the so-called bowl furnace’ (Crew and Rehren 2002, 96).

The large pit, partially encircled by a slot-trench, may have served as a storage pit and been surrounded by a shelter. It is hoped that an analysis of the ecofacts contained within the soil samples retrieved will shed further light on its function.

Crew, P. and Rehren, T. 2002 High-temperature workshop residues from Tara: iron, bronze and glass. Discovery Programme Monographs 6. Dublin.
Keeley, V. 1999 Iron Age discoveries at Ballydavis. In P.G. Lane and W. Nolan (eds), Laois: history and society, 25–34. Dublin.

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