2004:0037 - RATHLIN ISLAND: Carravindoon, Antrim

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Antrim Site name: RATHLIN ISLAND: Carravindoon

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: AE/04/97

Author: Peter Moore and Rosemary McConkey

Site type: Hut site and Field system

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 715597m, N 948990m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 55.274442, -6.180759

Three test-trenches were opened in Carravindoon townland, located on the east side of Rathlin Island. They all lie within a landscape of curvilinear field boundaries, enclosures and circular huts extending across an area of c. 250m2.

At the southern extremity of the field system is a subtriangular enclosure, 27m north-south by 25m, bounded partly by low banks and partly by the natural topography. Within this enclosure are four apparent hut sites, the largest of which measures 2.3m north-south by 2.9m internally, defined by a bank 1.9m wide and 0.65m (maximum) high. A test-trench 6m long (east-west) by 1m was opened across the west bank of this hut. Apart from a few fragments of flint, one of which was worked, no archaeological features were identified.

About 150m to the north-west of Trench 1, and within the larger curvilinear field system, is a circular hut, 7.8m in external and 3m in internal diameter. Before excavation, the hut bank stood to an average height of 0.45m. A test-trench 5m long (east-west) by 1m was opened across the west bank and included a portion of an adjacent field boundary (1.3m wide and 0.3m high), which terminated close to the hut wall.

Three main layers representing occupation were recorded in the interior of the hut. The earliest was a cobbled surface, from which two sherds of coarse pottery and some flint were recovered. Above this was a compacted layer containing charcoal and burnt orange flecks, as well as a hearth located close to the internal hut wall. Finds from this context comprised pieces of flint and two further sherds of coarse pottery. A layer of brown loam, containing similar burnt material but less compacted, lay just under the topsoil. The pottery has been provisionally assigned a Bronze Age date, with one sherd possibly dating to the Neolithic period.

The hut wall was formed by stones and boulders of varying sizes, some of which were substantial. The wall seems to have been built of stones roughly piled up, with earth and some smaller stones in the interstices. No definite facing stones could be identified. Stone collapse was evident on both sides of the wall.

A small, kidney-shaped patch containing charcoal flecks lay directly on bedrock on the exterior of the hut. A brown loam above this contained no finds, but a small oval feature within this layer may be the truncated remains of a post- or stake-hole. Below the topsoil was a deposit containing fragments of charcoal, burnt material and flint pieces. Two shallow features, possibly also representing truncated post- or stake-holes, were recorded at this level.

The field boundary crossed the south-west corner of the trench and was formed by an irregular arrangement of natural field boulders. Charcoal and burnt orange flecks were found in the soil between the stones.

A 2m by 1m trench was opened south-west of Trench 1 to investigate one of the smaller possible hut sites within the complex. The northern half of the trench was positioned within the hut interior and over the structural wall, with the southern half positioned to investigate the hut exterior.

On the removal of topsoil, a wall was uncovered that corresponded with the archaeological deposits recorded within the upper strata of Trench 2. The wall within Trench 3 had easily definable edges (particularly on the east side) with large facing stones; most of the collapse from the wall was located to the hut exterior (at the south end of the trench). A dark-brown gritty loam with some charcoal flecking was recorded beneath the topsoil layer within the hut. However, no finds were associated with this deposit. Situated beneath this was a dark black/brown loam with charcoal inclusions. Several small finds were associated with this layer. Two struck flints were recovered, both exhibiting evidence of having been retouched, and one appears to be a scraper.

A similar dark-brown/black deposit was recorded beneath and produced a long thin flint blade that could possibly date from the Late Mesolithic or Early Neolithic period (Sinead McCartan, pers. comm.), an unfinished flint blade with slight edge damage, and a possible scraper, although the retouch is crudely executed. At the base of this deposit was a layer of small stones that probably represents a metalled surface; this was situated immediately above the subsoil.

A mid-brown friable loam was recorded outside the hut. This deposit was archaeologically sterile and situated above the subsoil. It can therefore be surmised that the excavation of Trench 3 uncovered the remains of a roughly circular hut site that could date to the Neolithic period.

Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork, School of Archaeology & Palaeoecology, Queen's University, Belfast and Centre for Maritime Archaeology, Ulster University