2004:0020 - TOWNPARKS, BALLYMONEY, Antrim

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Antrim Site name: TOWNPARKS, BALLYMONEY

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: AE/04/15

Author: Peter Bowen, Archaeological Development Services Ltd, Unit 48, Westlink Enterprise Centre, 30-50 Distillery Street, Belfast, BT12 5BJ.

Site type: Prehistoric

ITM: E 694552m, N 925465m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 55.067646, -6.519682

As part of a proposed new retail development in Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, archaeological mitigation, commissioned by Tesco Ltd, was undertaken. A desktop survey led to a limited trial-trenching investigation of the site followed by a programme of monitoring of the topsoil removal and the manual excavation of a number of areas of archaeological deposits.

Five test-trenches were excavated using a mechanical digger to assess archaeological potential and to determine if the nearby cemetery had originally extended to within the development. To the west of the site is the site of a castle (SMR 17:51) and it was possible that associated buildings or fortifications may have survived within the development area. While the test-trenches proved the existence of surviving archaeological deposits, there was nothing uncovered to indicate that the cemetery had originally extended into the development, nor was there any trace of the castle, so the development was allowed to proceed.

With the removal of topsoil it became clear that there was a large number of surviving archaeological deposits across the entire development. These included numerous pits and post-holes as well as a large number of linear features. Following consultation, a revised programme of works was agreed and the development plans were altered to minimise the impact upon the archaeological deposits. Full excavation was undertaken in those areas where the deposits would have been adversely affected by the development. In those areas where preservation was possible, a programme of recording the deposits was undertaken. Once recorded, these were then covered with a layer of quarry dust on to which was placed a protective breathable membrane which was then covered in a further layer of quarry dust and stones.

There were nine areas identified that required excavation, all of which were located in the northern half of the development where the new store building was to be constructed. In most of these areas (1-5, 7, 9) the deposits consisted of random scatters of subsoil-cut pits, post- and stake-holes, while in Area 6 a large post-medieval field boundary running north-south was excavated in the north-eastern corner of the development. In Area 8 a partially surviving structure was fully excavated along with a series of large subsoil-cut pits. This structure survived as a badly truncated curving slot, with a second slot enclosing a rectangular area butted on to it. There were four subsoil-cut features excavated from within the area enclosed by this slot which may have acted as roof supports, along with a possible hearth located just off-centre within the structure. The only artefacts recovered from the structure were a number of pieces of struck flint.

The majority of the finds recovered from across the entire site would appear to indicate that the archaeological deposits are prehistoric in date, most likely either Late Neolithic or Early Bronze Age, although further analysis and dating is required to determine this. There were numerous pieces of struck flint recovered. Many of them showed no signs of secondary working, although a number of end scrapers, some blades, an arrowhead and a projectile point were all recovered. Two damaged porcellanite axeheads were also recovered, along with numerous sherds of Neolithic pottery, some of which had traces of decoration.

All the archaeological deposits within the area of the building were fully excavated. All those deposits beyond the limits of the excavation were recorded in plan and photographed before they were re-covered and preserved in situ.