2003:1327 - Gortaroe, Mayo

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Mayo Site name: Gortaroe

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 88:12 Licence number: 03E0121

Author: Tom Rogers, Moore Archaeological & Environmental Services Ltd, Corporate House, Ballybrit Business Park, Galway.

Site type: Burnt spreads

ITM: E 515648m, N 755664m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.544128, -9.272727

Testing was carried out at Gortaroe on the eastern edge of Westport, Co. Mayo, ahead of the construction of an IDA business park. The site comprises 15.15ha of pasture on a smooth west-facing spur of glacial deposits which drops sharply to small streams to the south and north-west. The lower-lying land, particularly to the north-west, is divided into small fields, while the hill is largely open ground. Remnant field boundaries, however, traceable from earthwork banks and bushes, show that this area was also once enclosed. There are extensive views from the rise towards Westport, Croagh Patrick and Clew Bay to the west.

The development is in the vicinity of SMR 88:5 (an enclosure), 88:6 (a potential site), 88:12 (an enclosure) and 88:13 (a graveyard). Twenty-three potential sites were identified in an environmental impact assessment in and around the area. Of these, nine fulachta fiadh and a Neolithic house were excavated in advance of the construction of the Westport sewerage scheme. Of the remaining eleven sites within the area (one further fulacht fiadh and one potential enclosure fell outside the boundary), four were potential fulachta fiadh, one a definite fulacht fiadh and six were possible enclosures.

Testing was carried out in three phases and in conjunction with a magnetometry survey of the area. A total of 26 trenches, totalling more than 1.3km, were excavated by machine fitted with a toothless grading bucket. The first phase of testing concentrated on the small valley to the north-west of the site, where the four potential and one existing fulachta fiadh were identified. Here, three areas of burnt material and shattered stones were uncovered. These were all at a similar topographical level and it is suggested that these areas probably represent fulachta fiadh at the edge of a small lake which was once at the base of this valley. The second phase of testing was designed to investigate enclosures and anomalies identified through magnetometry. Here no features of archaeological significance were found, apart from one irregular pit containing worked chert. A branch of the test-trenches which entered the north-western valley picked up an additional burnt spread. The third phase was designed to target more closely the actual footprint of the proposed development. In this phase, nothing of archaeological significance was recorded.