2003:1286 - NEWTOWNBALREGAN, Louth

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Louth Site name: NEWTOWNBALREGAN

Sites and Monuments Record No.: LH007-174001 and LH007-174002 Licence number: 03E0115

Author: David Bayley, for IAC Ltd.

Site type: Ringfort - rath and Souterrain

Period/Dating: Early Medieval (AD 400-AD 1099)

ITM: E 702085m, N 808938m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.019544, -6.442177

Site 114, Newtownbalregan 6, was excavated in advance of the M1 Dundalk Western Bypass. The site comprised a circular ringfort with an internal diameter of c. 46m (c. 50-52m external diameter), with a 5m-wide causewayed entrance facing east towards Dundalk Harbour. There was no trace of a bank, as the hilltop had been terraced fairly recently. The enclosure ditch was U-shaped, 2-4m wide, and varied between 1.5 and 0.1m deep due to truncation.

Internally there was a concentration of features in the southern half of the area. These consisted of shallow, irregular, sometimes intercutting, pits and post-holes, for which a definite structural form could not be given.

From high-status finds recovered in the southern part of the enclosure ditch (particularly a copper alloy penannular brooch, two stick pins, three decorated glass beads and a possible knife), the post-hole area appears to represent the remains of the main domestic quarters. Most of the animal bone recovered from the enclosure ditch was found on the western side of the ringfort, possibly indicating that this was near where butchering/stock activities were carried out. A total of 32 pieces of souterrain ware fragments were recovered from stratified contexts. A large collection of struck flint (226 pieces) illustrates early medieval flint use. The finds are consistent with an occupation phase of 7th–10th centuries AD.

Externally, 5m to the south-west of the ringfort ditch was a souterrain, 46m in length, which comprised 33m of intact tunnels. Of note is that the souterrain was constructed to follow the incline of the hill down to the south. The souterrain consisted of: six galleries; two rectangular and corbelled chambers, both with external air vents; three lighting alcoves (one stone-lined); one entrance grille/door (Gallery 1); one large internal door with jambs and locking arrangement (Gallery 2); and one drop-hole (Chamber 1). Included as a capstone near the entrance to Gallery 3 was a large, reused piece of highly decorated megalithic art.

The souterrain was built using two building materials: quarried stone for Galleries 1-5 and Chamber 1, but rougher 'field stone' for Gallery 6 (which was entered via the drop-hole from Chamber 1) and the large Chamber 2.

Elsewhere, external to the ringfort, were a small number of features, including a hearth and a circular, post-medieval, stone-based structure c. 5m in diameter. The site was cut through by numerous stone-filled field drains and plough furrows.

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