2003:1368 - CARRANSTOWN, Meath

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Meath Site name: CARRANSTOWN

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E1747

Author: Goorik Dehaene, for Arch Tech Ltd.

Site type: Pit, Barrow - ring-barrow and Burnt spread

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

ITM: E 706803m, N 772023m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.686997, -6.383052

A programme of excavation was undertaken within the proposed westward extension of Platin Quarry in the townland of Carranstown, located in north-east Co. Meath. The site is to the west of the Irish Cement Ltd quarry at Platin, 5km to the south-west of Drogheda and 3km north-north-east of Duleek.

Topsoil removal within the southern portion of Field 4 was monitored (02E1716 ext. 1). A circular feature associated with pits and post-holes (Features 4, 7 and 9) was identified, associated with sherds of prehistoric pottery, worked flint, a possible hammerstone and several probable rubbing stones. Fragments of cremated bone were also recovered. A number of prehistoric pits and linear features (Features 1, 2, 3, 10 and 11) were also identified. These also produced sherds of prehistoric pottery and flint.

The site was located on a level area between two hill slopes and two large fulachta fiadh (No. 1381, Excavations 2003, 03E0465 and 03E0790). The entire site is contained within a rectangular area 50m east-west by 35m. The excavation took place over two weeks in October 2003. Eleven features were recorded, comprising a possible Bronze Age ring-barrow (Features 4, 7 and 9) and possibly associated prehistoric pits and linear features (Features 1, 2, 3, 10 and 11). A furrow (Feature 5) and two charcoal spreads (Features 6 and 8) have provisionally been interpreted as modern agricultural activity. Material recovered from the possible barrow includes 44 sherds of prehistoric pottery, fourteen pieces of struck flint, six flint scrapers, one flint core and one hammerstone. Finds recovered from surrounding pits (Features 1-3) include ten sherds of prehistoric pottery, seven pieces of struck flint and one possible thumbnail scraper.

No meaningful stratigraphic relationship can be formed between many of the features on the site. The depth of topsoil overlying this site (maximum 0.2m) was such that the features have been disturbed/truncated by modern agricultural activity.

Feature 1 was an oval pit aligned north-south (measuring 0.8m by 0.5m and 0.11m deep) with concave sides and a flat base. It contained a loose, coarse, charcoal-stained clay with some inclusions of burnt clay and some burnt stone. A piece of struck flint was found associated with it. A narrow (0.12m) and shallow (0.06m) linear cut extends south-eastwards from the pit for 0.7m. The feature has been identified as a possible hearth with a flue to the south-east. The pit was located c. 27m east of the possible ring-barrow (Feature 4).

Feature 2 was a subrectangular pit aligned south-west/north-east, measuring 3.2m in length and 0.19m in depth. It had sloping concave sides and a flat base and contained a grey compact clay with occasional small (0.02m by 0.02m by 0.02m) to large (0.16m by 0.11m by 0.11m) stones. One piece of struck flint and four sherds of prehistoric pottery were retrieved from the fill. The feature was c. 25m east of the possible ring-barrow.

Feature 3 was an oval pit measuring 1.4m by 0.5m aligned east-west. It contained a grey sandy silt with stones. It was located c. 30m north-east of the possible ring-barrow.

Feature 4, the main feature on the site, comprised a circular ditch with one opening to the east. It has provisionally been interpreted as a ring-barrow. The circular ditch measured 14–15m in diameter and was 0.25–1.32m in width and 0.3–1.3m in depth. The cut of the ditch had sloping sides, with both a V-shaped and U-shaped base; the north-west half of the barrow had a V-shaped base, and towards the termini it was U-shaped. The ditch was deepest at its termini (south-east) and most shallow opposite the entrance (north-west). A large pit (Feature 7) and a possible entrance structure (Feature 9) were located between the termini of the circular ditch.

The primary fill of the ditch consisted of a mid-grey/brown silty clay with moderate charcoal and small stones. A layer of reddish-orange scorched clay overlay the primary fill throughout the ditch but was not recorded at its termini. Directly above the scorched fill was a thin layer of brownish dark-grey silty charcoal which extended from the southern terminus and ran over c. two-thirds of the ditch. The final fill through most of the barrow comprised a mottled mid-grey/orange clayey sand with moderate charcoal and small stones. Localised deposits, mostly of burnt material, including burnt stone towards the northern terminus and lenses of charcoal throughout the fill, were also evident. These fills are indicative of burning in (or in the vicinity of) the ditch and may indicate pyre activity.

Finds from the ditch include eleven pieces of struck flint, five flint scrapers, one hammerstone, one piece of struck quartz and seventeen sherds of prehistoric pottery. Carbonised hazelnut and burnt bone were also recovered.

Feature 5 was a linear feature running north-west/south-east. It measured c. 10m in length and 0.5m in width. The fill consisted of grey silty sand. It has been interpreted as a modern furrow. It was c. 14.5m south-east of the possible barrow.

Feature 6 comprised a thin (0.02-0.05m) subrectangular charcoal spread with concentrations of carbonised wood and burnt clay. It measured 1.95m east-west by 0.6m and was c. 4m south of the possible barrow. It has been provisionally interpreted as the remains of modern agricultural activity.

Feature 7 was a subrectangular pit located between the termini of the circular ditch, 1m from the southern and 2m from the northern terminus. The pit measured 1.9m in length, 0.86-1.1m in width and 0.75m in depth. It was aligned north-east/south-west. The steep sides were stepped around the northern and north-western edges. The base was flat. It contained three fills. The primary fill (measuring 0.22m in thickness) was a sterile grey silty sand with some stones. One piece of struck flint was retrieved. The main secondary fill was a black clayey silt (0.35m in depth) with frequent amounts of charcoal. Twenty-five sherds of prehistoric pottery and burnt bone were recovered. The final fill was a grey sandy clay (0.12m deep) with brown specks and with charcoal and medium-sized stones. A thumbnail scraper and one sherd of pottery were retrieved.

Feature 8 was a small circular charcoal spread (measuring 0.39m by 0.32m by 0.03m). It comprised chunks of charcoal pieces within the surface of the subsoil. Like Feature 6, it has been provisionally interpreted as the remains of modern agricultural activity. It was located c. 5m west of a similar spread, Feature 6, and 4m south of the possible barrow.

Feature 9 comprised two rows of post-holes and pits forming a possible entrance structure to the circular ditch.

Feature 10 was an east-west-aligned ditch (measuring c. 15m by 2m and 1m deep) located c. 10m north of the possible barrow. The sides sloped sharply to a flat base, forming a blunt 'V' shape in profile. The fill consisted of a grey silty sand with charcoal, unworked flint and mineralised vegetation (possibly roots). About 1m to the north, and parallel with Feature 10, another ditch with a width of approximately 1m was recorded. The function and dating of the ditches is not clear, but the silty fills indicate that the features were filled over a long period of time.

Feature 11 was an oval pit aligned north-east/south-west (measuring 3m by 0.95m). The fill consisted of a grey sandy silt with charcoal flecks and some burnt clay. It was located 20m east of the possible barrow and 5m west of Feature 2.

Initial analysis of the morphology of Features 4, 7 and 9 shows similarities with Late Bronze Age ring-barrows (without consideration of specialist analysis of artefacts recovered or samples taken). The artefacts consisted mainly of prehistoric pottery, struck flint and flint scrapers. It seems likely that those other features, with the exception of the modern furrow (Feature 5) and the charcoal spreads (Features 6 and 8), are of prehistoric date.

Glascarn, Ratoath, Co. Meath