2003:1150 - KILBANE, Castletroy, Limerick

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Limerick Site name: KILBANE, Castletroy

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 5:37 Licence number: 03E1382

Author: Florence M. Hurley

Site type: Fulacht fia, Cremation pit and Pit

Period/Dating: Bronze Age (2200 BC-801 BC)

ITM: E 561503m, N 656523m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.658534, -8.569034

Monitoring of topsoil-stripping for the construction of a large housing development at Kilbane, Castletroy, was required. The site contains a large flat-topped mound c. 50m in diameter, described as an 'enclosure' in the RMP. This will not be affected by the development. Only the areas for Phases 1 and 2 of the development (the western part of the site) were stripped, along with an access road. The southern part of the site, forming Phase 4, is separated from the main area by the line of a new road that replaces the existing narrow, winding School House Lane. The construction of the road formed a separate contract and was monitored by Limerick County Council archaeologists.

A considerable number of features were found during monitoring: fulachta fiadh, cremation burials and possible cremations, and pits and linear features.

Three fulachta fiadh were found, two beneath the line of the access road into the site compound. Only a 6m-wide section of each of these two was exposed. Both had been disturbed and the burnt stone had been spread out, leaving no surface trace of the sites. An area of burnt stone 20m long was uncovered from the eastern fulacht and an area of 9.7m was uncovered from the western one. The burnt material was c. 0.2m deep in both. A distance of 8m separated these two sites. The third fulacht fiadh was located in the adjoining field. This was a recognisable feature before work commenced. Passing machinery had exposed the extreme northern edge. The low mound measured c. 21m north-south by c. 14m. A field boundary next to this site has a small piped stream alongside it. All three fulachta are on the edge of a shallow depression that is likely to have been boggy in antiquity. The two sites uncovered on the route of the access road were covered to await later excavation, as was the other fulacht fiadh.

Almost half of the features uncovered were described as probable and possible cremations. The former were areas of charcoal-rich soil containing visible burnt bone, while the latter are similar except no bone was visible on the surface of the features. A total of 22 cremation deposits were recorded, with a further 28 possible cremations present. These were mostly contained in three groups within the section of the field forming the Phase 1 area. At the southern end, adjacent to the new road, was a group of seventeen features containing five probable cremations and two possible ones. The five probable cremations were all close to each other and a single sherd of undecorated, handmade pottery made of a red fabric came from one of them. In the centre of the field is a small group of five features. Of these, four were probable cremations in a tight group. A single large sherd of rough handmade pottery came from one of these.

Part of the western boundary of the site is formed by houses and gardens and close to these lay two groups of features. The smaller cluster, towards the north-west, contained a large irregular feature, whose fill contained a small amount of burnt bone but which had several furrows running across it. In the larger cluster, 23 possible features were uncovered, most containing only small amounts of charcoal and being either linear features or possible pits. A possible saddle quern and rubbing stone came from one of these.

The greatest number of probable and possible cremations came from a distinct group located in the northern part of the site. A rectangular area measuring c. 30m by 15m contained at least thirteen probable and at least sixteen possible cremations. Some of the former contained tightly packed small or medium-sized stones in the centre of the charcoal- and bone-rich deposits. Two bands of brown silty sand on the north and south of the group may be a delimiting feature of some sort. Two large boulders of decayed stone are on the north-western corner and on the southern edge. Both are mostly below the old ground surface and are not readily visible. What is most apparent about this group is how tightly packed they are, with only a single probable cremation to the east acting as an outlier. Three pieces of rough handmade pottery came from a deposit in the centre of the cluster.

It appears as if there are three separate flat cemeteries present on the site. The various features along the western part of the site do not appear to be of a funerary nature and may be domestic. All of the material is prehistoric in date, possibly Bronze Age.

Excavation was recommended. As the development was under way, this could be carried out in conjunction with the schedule of construction works. The site was subsequently excavated by Niamh O' Callaghan (No. 1151, Excavations 2003).

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