2003:1516 - Cloncreen Bog, Ballykilleen, Offaly

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Offaly Site name: Cloncreen Bog, Ballykilleen

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E1119

Author: Jane Whitaker, ADS Ltd, Windsor House, 11 Fairview Strand, Dublin 3.

Site type: Brushwood sites

ITM: E 660275m, N 727787m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.296948, -7.095826

These three brushwood sites were selected for excavation as part of the 2003 Bord na Móna archaeological mitigation project. They were grouped together in the mitigation strategy document because of their close proximity to each other and the fact that their functions remained uncertain after the Irish Archaeological Wetland Unit 2002 Peatland Survey. The sites were excavated in two cuttings, while a third cutting was excavated adjacent to Cutting 1, when the remains of a small hurdle were exposed on the field surface.

OF-BKL0072, 73 and 75 were recorded as three tertiary toghers located in close proximity on a single field surface. OF-BKL0072 was recorded during the survey as a transverse (north-south) plank overlain by a longitudinal (north-west/south-east) plank and was dendrochronologically dated to 927±9 BC. OF-BKL0073 was recorded as being composed of over 40 pieces of brushwood and twigs, oriented west-north-west/east-south-east, exposed on the field surface, while 40m to the west OF-BKL0075 consisted of four pieces of heavy brushwood oriented north-west/south-east and dated to 915-786 BC. Cutting 1 was located at sites OF-BKL0072 and 73 and measured 5m by 3m. Cutting 2 was established over the site OF-BKL0075 and also measured 5m by 3m. During the preparation of Cutting 2 for photography, the remains of a possible hurdle were revealed 0.4m from the western extent of the cutting, and a third cutting (Cutting 3), measuring 2m by 2m, was excavated at this location.

As mentioned above, Cutting 1 contained OF-BKL0072 and 73, identified as two separate sites during the 2002 Peatland Survey. These sites were recorded within 2m of one another and, as a result, were recommended for excavation within a single cutting to investigate any possible relationship with one another. The sites were partially exposed on the field surface and had been damaged by the milling process. There were two distinct groups of wood remains within the cutting, with a 0.5m gap between them. The eastern concentration of wood was composed of densely placed light brushwood elements with a mainly north-south orientation concentrated within an area measuring 1.7m by 2.4m. There were some east-west-oriented elements, giving the appearance that this site may represent the remains of a small hurdle. The western concentration of wood contained a north-south-oriented plank and some north-east/south-west-oriented brushwood elements. The plank had been partially sampled during the 2002 Peatland Survey for dendro analysis and returned a date of 927±9 BC. The plank was an inner tangential split, 0.2m in width, and had a remaining length of 1.16m. A mortise measuring 0.18m by 0.12m with an intact peg was revealed during excavation. The peg was square cut and had a surviving length of 0.15m. The plank was fractured across the mortise hole and the eastern side was missing. There were some small overlying pieces of light brushwood, which were also machine damaged. There were also twelve pieces of associated brushwood elements 0.4m to the west of the plank which had an east-west orientation and an average diameter of 30-40mm.

The function of the wood exposed in this cutting is uncertain. There were, however, fragmentary milled pieces of wood to the east and west of the cutting, although investigation could not prove an association with the remains contained in the cutting. As mentioned above, the cleaning of the cutting surrounds prior to photography revealed the remains of a small hurdle 0.4m to the west of the cutting. This site was investigated within a separate cutting (Cutting 3), measuring 2m by 2m. The hurdle measured 1.35m in width and 1.67m in length. It was composed of eight sails woven together by closely placed light brushwood rods. The entire panel was exposed within the cutting, but part of one of the sails extended eastwards towards Cutting 1, suggesting a possible association with the other sites.

Cutting 2 also measured 5m by 3m in size. The site was recorded during the 2002 survey as being composed of four pieces of heavy brushwood with lighter pieces of twigs and brushwood irregularly dispersed throughout (OF-BKL0075). The site was dated after the survey to 915-786 BC and a horn core was retrieved at that time from the south-eastern edge of the site.

Excavation revealed that the site had been somewhat disturbed during the recording process of the survey work. The site was fragmentary and had no obvious orientation or function. The elements were mainly heavy brushwood oriented north-east/south-west with irregularly placed lighter brushwood and twigs scattered throughout. Within the cutting the site was contained within an area measuring 3.8m by 2.16m. As with Cutting 1, there were some wood remains along the field surface to the east of Cutting 2, but these were too fragmentary to establish a definite relationship with the material excavated.

Although these sites were recorded as tertiary toghers, due to the fragmentary nature of the surviving remains this classification must be called into question. The sites did not extend northwards towards the centre of the production field, where there is generally a greater chance of preservation. Although there was a large amount of material visible on the field surface to the east and west of the three cuttings, it appears that there are also significant enough gaps in between these wood deposits to prevent them being directly associated or forming part of a single structure. The Late Bronze Age dates received from both OF-BKL0072 and OF-BKL0075 would suggest that they form part of a phase of similar activity being carried out within Cloncreen Bog.