2003:1905 - Knockhouse Lower, Waterford

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Waterford Site name: Knockhouse Lower

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E1879

Author: Melanie McQuade, Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd, 2 Killiney View, Albert Road Lower, Glenageary, Co. Dublin.

Site type: Hut, hearth and series of pits

ITM: E 657585m, N 611670m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.253728, -7.156589

Monitoring and full-scale excavation were carried out on two sites of archaeological potential (Field 12, 03E1879, and Field 7, No. 1863 above, 03E1880), which were identified as a result of previous testing on the proposed Carrickpherish Road (No. 1900 above, 03E1795). The following refers to investigations in the southern road corridor undertaken between 1 and 23 December 2003, before the commencement of construction works.

The southern road corridor runs through a low-lying field, to the east of a Bronze Age enclosure and a fulacht fiadh (excavated by David Bonner, 03E1330). The stratigraphy comprised 0.28m of ploughsoil overlying natural ground. Three areas of archaeological potential were recognised within the road-take of Field 12. In Area 1, to the north of the field, a north-east/south-west field boundary was uncovered. A section excavated through this feature showed it was 0.95m wide and 0.28m deep. A sherd of North Devon gravel-tempered ware within the fill indicates that the field boundary dates from the post-medieval period. In Area 2, to the south of Area 1, a second field boundary and hearth were uncovered. The field boundary curved south-east to west and measured 0.9-1.15m wide and 0.2m deep. To the south of this was a small hearth-like feature (0.85-1m by 0.4m). Nothing was found to indicate the date of these features. Area 3 measured 20m by 29m and was located in the south of the field. It comprised a circular hut-type structure, a hearth with associated stake-holes, a series of pits, a post row and a number of posts. Post-excavation analysis from this site is still in its early stages and what follows is a summary of the preliminary results of excavation.

A circular hut was located in the east of Area 3. A slot-trench (3.2m in diameter) with terminal post-holes, a central post and a series of stake-holes defined the hut. The slot-trench was 0.12-0.19m wide, with straight sides and a U-shaped profile. Its fill was loosely compacted mid-brown sandy clay with occasional inclusions of charcoal flecks (0.04-0.17m deep). Further structural support was provided by the central post (0.18m in diameter) and by another internal post to its north-west. In the south-west was an entranceway, 0.4m wide, around which were a number of stake-holes, which may have formed a door.

There was no evidence for a floor surface or hearth within this structure, although a probable occupational deposit was excavated to its south-west. Several pits, subrectangular features and a deposit were found in the vicinity of the hut. These were not stratigraphically linked to each other or to the hut, but their proximity suggests that they may be associated and could be contemporary with the hut. No structural pattern or other function was apparent from these features during excavation. Sherds of prehistoric pottery were found in the deposit to the south of the hut and in one of the pits.

There was a substantial hearth 7.4m to the south-west of the hut. Underlying this was a small circular pit (0.2m in diameter) filled with a soot-like substance 0.08m deep. This appears to have been truncated by the hearth pit. The hearth pit was 1.2m by 1m and 0.06-0.14m deep. It was delineated to the west by a flat stone, which had a stake-hole at each corner. There was evidence for at least two successive phases of burning in the hearth. The date of this hearth has not yet been established, but it may be contemporary with the hut.

A number of post-holes and 53 stake-holes were excavated around the area of the hearth. No coherent structure was identified and it appears that this was an external hearth. The stakes may have formed part of a fire screen or drying rack.

A number of pits, ranging in size from 0.3m by 0.5 to 0.85m by 0.5m, were excavated to the south and east of the hearth. These contained burnt fills and may have been rubbish or cooking pits.

In the west of Area 3 was a north-south row of seven irregularly spaced post-holes. These ranged from 0.16 to 0.4m in diameter and were relatively shallow (0.04-0.18m), presumably having been truncated as a result of ploughing and topsoil-stripping. All of the post-holes were filled with mid-brown loosely compacted sandy clay with occasional pebbles. The posts may have been part either of a larger enclosing fence or of a structure extending beyond the western extent of the road corridor.

Aside from the post row, there were 23 other post-holes across the site. These varied in size from 0.12 to 0.5m wide and 0.08 to 0.2m deep, but no structural pattern was determined from them during excavation.

In the west of Area 3, to the east of the post row, were three pits. These ranged in size from 0.52m by 0.3m to 0.75m by 0.5m and were 0.13-0.24m deep. They were all filled with mid-brown sandy clay with very occasional inclusions of pebbles.

A series of north-south plough furrows cut across the site and a sherd of red earthenware from one of these indicates that they date from the post-medieval period.

The only finds from this site were ceramics. Sherds of prehistoric pottery, which have not yet been analysed, were recovered from post-holes in the vicinity of the hearth and from a deposit to the south-west of the hut. Fragments of burnt bone from the hearth and the fill of a pit to its east have not yet been analysed. Should they be identified as human, the hearth could be interpreted as a pyre site, with the stake-holes forming some type of associated superstructure. The amount of burnt bone recovered from one of the pits is suggestive of a token deposit rather than a full burial. The data currently available from this site is more indicative of domestic activity. Although the hut may have been too small for a dwelling, it could have functioned as some type of storage shed or shelter.