2003:1397 - HARLOCKSTOWN (Testing Area 18), Meath

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Meath Site name: HARLOCKSTOWN (Testing Area 18)

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E1315

Author: Stuart Halliday, Judith Carroll Network Archaeology Ltd.

Site type: Pit, Structure and Enclosure

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 706028m, N 750122m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.490425, -6.402217

Test excavation was undertaken in advance of the proposed N2 Finglas-Ashbourne road scheme between August and November 2003. The proposed road scheme is approximately 17km long, commencing at the M50 interchange in Dublin and extending to the townland of Rath, north of Ashbourne, Co. Meath. The route avoids all the recorded sites in the area, but a small number of possible archaeological sites were identified in the line of the route as part of the EIS carried out by Valerie J. Keeley Ltd. A subsequent geophysical survey carried out by GSB Prospection Ltd and Margaret Gowen Ltd in 2002 identified further new sites along the route.

Based on the results of these surveys the route was divided into 31 testing areas, so that the possible sites and the whole of the remainder of the route could be investigated through testing. This generally involved mechanically excavating 2m-wide trenches along the centre-line, with perpendicular offsets every 20m, across the width of the land-take. In addition, test-trenches were excavated parallel to all rivers/streams.

In Testing Area 18, located at Chainage 12040 to 12680, possible archaeological features had been identified in the geophysical survey. An area equating to 23.6% cover of the proposed land-take was excavated in TA 18.

Two main areas of interest were identified in Field 18 (iii). The first comprised three possible deposits/pit features containing burnt stone and/or charcoal. In the immediate vicinity of these features, three small assemblages of medieval pottery were also discovered. These comprised a mix of both coarsewares, such as Leinster cooking ware, and finer green-glazed Dublin-type pottery, almost all of which dated from the 12th to 14th centuries. It was noticeable that all the pieces seemed relatively sharp, with well-defined edges, suggesting that they had not been extensively ploughed or been subject to other post-depositional processes.

Approximately 22m to the north-west of this semicircular anomaly, evidence of a second episode of archaeological activity was recorded. Here, excavations uncovered a small ovoid enclosed area protruding for c. 4m from the northern baulk of the test-trench, itself offset from the western side of the centre-line of the proposed road. This comprised a curvilinear feature, which was irregular in plan but on average measured c. 0.7m across. Oriented north-south, it enclosed an area measuring roughly 3.5m by 2.9m at its widest point. No evidence of a possible entranceway was uncovered, although it should be noted that not all of this ditch was exposed during this programme of testing.

Approximately 5.8m to the west, a second linear feature was uncovered. This was oriented north-south and extended for 3.7m from the northern baulk of the trench before coming to an end, with an irregular terminus. It measured 0.38m in width. It seems reasonable to suggest that this may be associated with the small ovoid enclosure.

On the whole, the results would seem to suggest that the majority of TA 18 is devoid of any archaeological activity. Indeed, for the most part, the only activity uncovered comprised modern agricultural practices, ranging from very recent deep ploughing to the excavation of 20th-century field drainage systems.

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