2003:1209 - Lisnamuck, Longford

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Longford Site name: Lisnamuck

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E1421

Author: Ros Ó Maoldúin, Valerie J. Keeley Ltd, Brehon House, Kilkenny Road, Castlecomer, Co. Kilkenny, for ADS Ltd.

Site type: Burnt mound

ITM: E 614888m, N 776528m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.738179, -7.774339

Site 5, one of six sites identified during monitoring by Chris Read (No. 1208 above, 03E1194/03E1369), was excavated during September and October 2003. The site consisted of a spread forming a semicircular arc around a pit/trough and eight stake-holes, with two post-holes situated to the north-west and a natural depression situated to the north-east.

The main fulacht spread consisted of loosely compacted, dark blackish-grey sandy silt containing many charcoal flecks. It was 11m by 10.5m at its maximum and had a maximum depth of 0.24m. A gully was cut into the edge of a natural depression which lay beneath the spread.

The pit/trough was situated at the centre of the spread’s arc. It was oval in plan, with steep to vertical sides, and had a flat base. It measured 1.56m by 1.44m, was 0.36m deep and contained two fills. The basal fill of 90mm depth was friable dark bluish-grey sandy clay containing occasional flecks of charcoal. The main/upper fill was firmly compacted dark-brown sandy silt containing c. 30% burnt stone and many charcoal flecks. A deposit of upcast natural was situated to the north of the trough. It roughly reflects the size of the trough and is almost certainly the material removed during its excavation.

There were five stake-holes scattered near the southern edge of the trough and one at the northern edge. They were oval/circular in plan, with diameters of 40-80mm and depths of 58mm-0.13m and all projected vertically into the ground. There was no obvious pattern to their distribution.

The two post-holes to the north-west of the site had no obvious relationship with any other features. One was oval in plan with steep to vertical sides tapering gradually to a point. It measured 0.19m by 0.16m, was 0.25m deep, appears to have been driven into the ground vertically and was filled by loosely compacted light-grey clayey sand containing occasional charcoal flecks. The other was circular in plan with steep to vertical sides tapering slightly and breaking gently to a concave base. It had a diameter of 0.15m and a depth of 0.26m.

Burnt mounds or fulachta fiadh are the commonest type of monument surviving from Ireland’s prehistory. In the 1980s, Ó Drisceoil (1988) portrayed the existence of at least 4000 known examples. Over recent years, increased development has led to the excavation of many new sites. Fulachta are generally interpreted as cooking places, but there have been alternative suggestions, such as bathing sites (Ó Drisceoil 1988), clothes-dying sites and beer-production sites. Artefacts and ecofacts are notoriously rare at fulacht sites, offering little support for any theory. However, different patterns among the features can be seen. Within the four examples excavated at this location (see also No. 1210 below, 03E1422), two distinctly different trough or pit types are represented. At the nearby Sites 1 and 3 (No. 1210 below), the troughs were rectangular and had flat bases with a stake-hole in either corner. However, the pits central to this fulacht and that at Site 2 (below) were oval in plan and deeper and their sides broke more gently to less flat bases. This does not suggest the presence of a lining, but the natural appears to be impermeable and these pits may well have functioned similarly to the lined troughs.

Although this mound was ploughed flat, a horseshoe shape was still discernible and the pit/trough was situated right in the centre of its arc. Although no pattern was evident among the stake-holes situated adjacent to the pit, they are almost certainly interrelated. The position of stakes on either side of the trough could indicate support for something similar to a spit. The two depressions probably served as sources of water and their associated gullies would serve to support this.

Reference
Ó Drisceoil, D.A. 1988 Burnt mounds: cooking or bathing? Antiquity 62, 671-80.