2003:1055 - BALLYDAVIS (Site P), Laois

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Laois Site name: BALLYDAVIS (Site P)

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E0905

Author: Colum Hardy, for Valerie J. Keeley Ltd.

Site type: Linear earthworks and Structure

Period/Dating: Prehistoric (12700 BC-AD 400)

ITM: E 650503m, N 700735m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.054877, -7.246655

Excavation took place in advance of the M7 Heath–Mayfield motorway (Monasterevin Bypass) on behalf of Kildare County Council. Previous centre-line investigation by Ros Ó Maoldúin (No. 1052, Excavations 2003, 03E0128) uncovered a number of features. The site consisted of two areas, approximately 117m apart. An area of up to 5m surrounding the trenches was exposed with machine assistance and excavated. The site lies approximately 4km north-east of Portlaoise.

In Area 1, one trench was opened measuring 16m by 2.1m, orientated in an east–west direction and located in the front garden of a modern house on a gentle south-facing slope. Topsoil consisted of a dark-brown silty boulder clay to a depth of 0.46m. Two pits were located at opposite ends of the trench. That at the eastern end was small, circular and shallow and measured 0.54m by 0.5m by 0.08m. It consisted of a medium, compacted, grey/black, charcoal-rich (30–40%) silty sand. At the western end of the trench was a subrectangular pit measuring 0.55m by 0.36m by 0.14m. It consisted of a sterile, soft-brown, sandy gravel.

Area 2 consisted of three trenches orientated east–west. They lay approximately 117m east of Area 1 on the grass verge alongside the current road on a gentle southerly-facing slope. Trench 1 was L-shaped and measured 13m east–west by 7–12m. It was located c. 9m north of Trench 2. The main components of this trench were two parallel linear ditches c. 5–6m apart. They were orientated in a north–south direction, with the southernmost ditch continuing into Trench 2. The northern ditch (C15), which ran across the centre of the trench, was cut twice. Approximately 10m of the ditch was excavated, with the primary cut measuring 1.3m wide and 0.75–0.8m deep. It had steep, almost vertical, sides with a flat, U-shaped base. The primary fill consisted of a loose, dark-brown, silty sand with occasional animal bone (15%). It was 0.8–1.3m wide and 0.27–0.56m deep. The secondary cut was shallower and had two fills. It was c. 1–1.2m wide and 0.4–0.5m deep. The upper fill consisted of a compact light-yellow/orange sandy silt with occasional animal bone (5%). It was 1.2m wide and 0.2m deep. The lower fill of this recut consisted of a medium-brown silty clay and measured 0.85m wide and 0.33m deep. No finds were recorded from this ditch, with both phases appearing to be the result of natural silting. Two pieces of post-medieval pottery were recorded from a plough furrow which may be contemporary with one ditch, C73 (see Trench 2), which also produced one piece of post-medieval pottery. Located in the south-east corner of the trench was a section of the southernmost linear ditch. It too was orientated north–south and ran parallel to C15. It continued southwards across Trench 2. It extended for 12.5m across both trenches and was 1.7–2.6m wide and 0.9m deep. It had steep sides with a U-shaped profile and a flat and even base (C12).

Trench 2 was rectangular in shape and measured 15m east–west by c. 7.5m. Two main features were evident in it. The first was the continuation of the linear ditch C12 from Trench 1. This trench produced a varying degree of contexts along its length, with frequent amounts of snail shell and animal bone, especially near the base. Located at the southern end of this ditch and cut into its upper fill was a subcircular possible hearth. It measured 1.45m north-east/south-west by 0.85m and 0.15m deep and contained some burnt and unburnt bone with occasional small seeds. Running along the same orientation and truncating the western side of C12 was a smaller, shallower ditch. It was orientated north–south and contained two fills. It extended for c. 9m across the trench, was 0.8m wide and 0.5m deep and U-shaped in profile. The upper fill appeared to be redeposited natural or possibly collapsed bank material. The main fill consisted of a loose, dark-brown, silty clay with occasional animal bone. It measured 0.65m wide and 0.26m deep. One piece of post-medieval pottery was recovered from this fill. Located to the east of C12 was a large subcircular pit. It appears to have had up to six phases of activity. The initial phase had a diameter of 2.3m and a depth of 1.7m. It had steep vertical sides with a flat base. A series of successive cuts followed, with a large proportion of animal bone being recorded from almost all levels. This pit showed a consistent series of natural silting in association with redeposited natural and recutting over a period of time. It may have been clay-lined at one stage.

Trench 3 was located c. 6.6m south of Trench 2 and measured c. 11.2m north–south by c. 9m. A possible hearth was evident at the eastern end of the trench lying adjacent to a series of post-/stake-holes. It was circular and measured 0.66m by 0.6m by 0.18m. Small isolated fragments of burnt bone were recorded. There was, however, no large degree of scorching evident. The feature may be the result of dumped material from elsewhere. Located at the western end of the trench was a second hearth. It was circular in shape and measured 0.73m by 0.63m by 0.14m. The remaining features within the trench are made up of post-/stake-holes, pits and natural depressions. There are nine possible post-/stake-holes, which form a roughly semicircular pattern with a diameter of c. 4m. The arc does not appear to continue on the northern side. The average diameter of these features was 255mm, with an average depth of 0.21m. No finds were recorded from any of these features, which were comprehensively sampled.

The southernmost ditch, C12, may be a field boundary located at the eastern side of a small rectangular building as appears on the first-edition 6-inch OS map (1841). The building is orientated east–west, with a possible ditch heading in a northerly direction from the north-western corner. This possible ditch continues northwards until it meets the possible field boundary. The large circular pit may be associated with this building, although it is not evident on the first-edition map. Trench 3 produced a series of post-/stake-holes in a semicircular shape with a possible hearth and pits in association. No finds were recorded from any of these features, with further analysis anticipated following environmental and dating investigation.

Brehon House, Kilkenny Road, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny