2003:1452 - RATOATH, Meath

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Meath Site name: RATOATH

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E1300

Author: Angela Wallace, for Arch-Tech Ltd.

Site type: Burnt spread, Ring-ditch, Field system and Enclosure

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 701779m, N 751796m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.506294, -6.465680

Monitoring was required on a large-scale residential development on the western fringe of Ratoath village. The development covers an area of 18.35ha (45.34 acres) and is bounded by Dunshaughlin Road and Skryne Road. The majority of the site is outside the zone of archaeological potential as outlined by the Urban Survey of County Meath. The greater part of the development area lying within this zone is to be retained as public open space.

Prior to development, the area was used as pasture and was subdivided into fourteen fields. Apart from existing farm buildings and the areas to be retained as open spaces, the entire area of the development was stripped of topsoil in advance of any construction works commencing on the site.

The former field boundaries were used as a reference point for description of monitoring results. A significant element of the ground conditions across the area monitored was the presence of low, wide ridges, which were more notable as the first horizon of topsoil was removed. These ridges have been interpreted as remnants of very wide 'lazy-beds' used for cultivation purposes during the 18th or 19th centuries.

The general stratigraphy across the site consisted of topsoil of a mid-brown silty clay with moderate amounts of small stones, 0.2–0.25m in depth, over an interface topsoil layer of orange/brown sandy clay with moderate to frequent amounts of small to medium stones, 0.2-0.3m in depth. Below this was natural subsoil, a mid-orange/brown sandy clay with frequent small to medium stones, decayed limestone and sandstone.

Field 1 was designated as open space within the development and no topsoil-stripping took place in this area. Only the western portion of Fields 2 and 3 were stripped, as the remainder is to be used in a separate development for playing pitches. Fields 3, 4 and 9–14 did not yield any archaeological finds or features.

At the western edge of Field 2 and the eastern edge of Field 5, which are adjacent to each other, the truncated remains of a burnt spread were identified. The burnt spread was bisected by the field boundary. This area is quite marshy and is within a natural depression in the landscape. The burnt spread was cordoned off and excavated later (No. 1454, Excavations 2003, 03E1632).

Fields 6 and 7 and the southern portion of Field 8 are located in the southern area of the development, adjacent to the Dunshaughlin Road to the south. There is a high east-west ridge crossing through these fields and a substantial number of archaeological features were identified in this area.

Two circular ring-ditches, several figure-of-eight and keyhole-shaped kilns, various pits and post-holes and several linear and curving ditches were identified in Field 6. This area is currently being excavated (No. 1455, Excavations 2003, 03E1781).

At the western edge of Field 7, an arc of a large curving ditch/enclosure was identified and also some smaller ditches, pits and post-holes. Within the arc of the curving ditch, the fragmented remains of three inhumations were exposed. The curving ditch appears to extend into the area currently in use as a farmyard to the west. It also appears to extend into Field 8 to the north. It was decided not to strip topsoil in Field 8, due to concerns that more human remains may survive in this area. A programme of geophysical survey has been carried out in Fields 7 and 8 and results appear to confirm the presence of an enclosure and associated external ditches and various anomalies. It is quite likely that an Early Christian or medieval enclosure and burial ground survives at the western end of Field 7 and the southern end of Field 8 and possibly a portion of it survives under the existing farm buildings.

32 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2