2004:0014 - ISLANDMAGEE: Ballyharry Farm, Ballyharry, Antrim

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Antrim Site name: ISLANDMAGEE: Ballyharry Farm, Ballyharry

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: AE/04/22

Author: John Ó Néill, Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork

Site type: Habitation site

Period/Dating: Neolithic (4000BC-2501 BC)

ITM: E 746456m, N 899333m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.820470, -5.720950

In 2004 an excavation was undertaken at the site of a single replacement dwelling adjacent to the early 17th-century St John's Church. Testing of the vicinity had demonstrated the presence of a quantity of chipped and worked stone and other indications of prehistoric occupation.

The excavation trench measured 17m (east-west) by 9m, with extensions to the south where the test-trenches extended beyond the area available for excavation. The northern limits of the trench were not excavated, due to the presence of a sewer pipe. An active water pipe running obliquely across the centre of the trench, roughly east-west, was retained within a 1m-wide baulk. The western end of this was removed at the end of the excavation due to the proximity of archaeological features.

Earlier agricultural and horticultural activity had created a deposit of cultivated soils overlying an artificial horizon. The base of furrows, a path, a pipe trench and stone drains were identified with this activity. A significant quantity of chipped and knapped stone was recovered from the cultivated soils.

The artificial surface created by the agricultural activity retained features that appear to be associated with prehistoric settlement on the site. These included a number of heavily truncated post-holes and two possible slot-trenches in the north-western corner of the trench, and the northern end of a Neolithic house in the south-western corner of the trench.

In the north-western corner of the trench, the two slot-trenches were at right angles to a 1.2m gap between the 3m-long east-west slot and the 2m-long north-south slot. One post-hole was recorded within this area and a further post-hole was recorded to the east. Struck flint and some Neolithic pottery were recovered from the slot-trenches and it is plausible that this represents the remains of a Neolithic structure.

In the south-western corner of the trench, a 3.95m-long slot-trench was recorded some 0.4m from the southern limits of the excavation. There were returns at the eastern and western end of this slot-trench, which was 0.25m wide and up to 0.3 deep. A later pit had truncated the western wall of the structure. Packing stones were present within the fill, although there was no clear indication of the previous locations of post-holes or planks. Some charcoal and at least one animal tooth were recovered from the upper fill. Significant quantities of flint cores and struck flakes were recovered, along with c. 100 sherds of Neolithic pottery, including various rim forms (one perforated), carinated sherds and body sherds. This slot-trench appears to represent the northern gable of a Neolithic house.

The excavation of the area of the proposed dwelling removed all archaeological deposits likely to be destroyed during construction of the replacement dwelling. Gahan and Long Ltd also investigated an adjoining site in 2004 (no report received).

It is anticipated that post-excavation analysis will shed further light on the date and nature of both prehistoric structures.

School of Archaeology & Palaeoecology, Queen's University Belfast