2004:0039 - CASTLE CARRA, Armagh

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Armagh Site name: CASTLE CARRA

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 15:14 Licence number: AE/04/125

Author: Declan Hurl, EHS, Waterman House, 5-33 Hill Street, Belfast BT1 2LA.

Site type: Mesolithic, medieval, post-medieval

ITM: E 724895m, N 934583m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 55.142817, -6.040888

The excavation in 2004 completed the investigation of the interior of the structure and examined a further small area to the north-west. Beneath the stones and modern debris in the interior of the structure were spreads of gravelly sand and stony loams along the west, south, east and north walls, which contained the remains of several infant burials, including nine neonates or stillborn infants, as well as sherds of everted-rim ware, a whetstone and a corroded iron blade.

Beneath the silty loams and sands was a spread of charcoal, up to 0.05m thick, containing shells and bone fragments, and a lower spread of light, charcoal-flecked sand, 0.65m wide and up to 0.1m thick. Adjacent to the west wall was the only deliberately cut grave on-site; it contained the skeleton of a child, 1-2? years of age, extended, supine and oriented east-west with the head to the west. Several large stones rested directly on the remains.

There was another lower substantial complex of charcoal spreads and scorched soil, 2.9m by 1.2m and up to 0.2m thick. It thickened considerably in the centre of the structure to form a domed feature, within which were a series of hollows, one of which was 0.4m in diameter and 0.3m deep, extending down to intrude into the clay floor. It was flanked in the east by a deposit of scorched stones. The stones and burnt soil overlaid a substantial layer of light sandy loam, up to 0.3m thick, containing a furnace bottom, a large stone moulding and a semicircular sheet of mortar-encrusted lead, c. 0.4m in radius, as well as a large iron fishhook. The hollows in the scorched dome extended down into the sandy loam, which, in turn, overlaid a series of brown gritty loams containing sherds of medieval pottery.

Below the gritty loams were further layers of charcoal separated by mortar-rich loams, sand, gravel and clay, 0.1m thick, with shells and stones, as well as two sherds of green-glazed pottery, an iron nail and a flint scraper. The earliest spread of charcoal-rich loam, up to 0.05m thick, contained burnt bone as well as sherds of green-glazed pottery and a lump of slag in the north and, in the south of the structure, medieval pottery and iron objects, including a broad triangular arrowhead and a barrel lock.

Those charcoal spreads sat on a floor of compact brown sandy clay, up to 0.3m thick, which formed the floor level within the structure; within it were found sherds of green-glazed and everted-rim pottery, corroded iron objects and a lump of slag. It had been laid down over the craggy bedrock, which had been roughly levelled using large stones, among which were patches of mortar which appeared to have been deposited before it had set. In the southern three-quarters of the building the walls were found to be set on a stone plinth which was angled to the line of the walls, having a more north-south orientation.

Cut into the clay floor was a small pit, 0.93m wide, 0.28m deep and extending 0.3m from the centre of the north wall of the structure, in which a corresponding hollow, 0.33m wide, extended at least 0.5m into the base of the wall. Upon removal of the sod against the exterior of the wall, an examination wall revealed an area of unmortared stone crudely inserted into a gap at the very base of the wall, implying that the hollow extended throughout its width.

Outside the structure, a 1m-wide trench was opened next to the north-west wall. It exposed layers of sandy loams separated by irregular deposits of stones, similar to those uncovered two years before (Excavations 2002, No. 20), and they again yielded quantities of flint blades, flakes, cores and debitage suggestive of a Late Mesolithic date. A post-hole, 0.45m in diameter, was found cut into the subsoil, disappearing into the section adjacent to the structure.