2004:0131 - BALLYCASEY MORE, Clare

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Clare Site name: BALLYCASEY MORE

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E1436 ext.

Author: Red Tobin, Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd, 27 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

Site type: Various

ITM: E 542363m, N 663442m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.719014, -8.853131

A series of excavations was carried out at this site of features identified during a monitored topsoil-strip which took place in September of 2003. Six features/areas of activity were defined at that time. They were excavated during January of 2004.

Area 1 was defined as a subrectangular pit/trough 1.4m in length by 0.9m in width. It reached a maximum depth of 0.25m with a flat base and almost vertical sides. The pit had two distinct fills. The primary fill was moderately compacted silty clay containing large lumps of charcoal. Within this fill, at the southern end of the feature, were three rough pieces of local stone, deliberately placed to form a raised platform. The cut of the pit was oxidised throughout. The upper fill was relatively nondescript, being simply loose silty clay with occasional charcoal flecking. It would appear that the primary function of this pit was burning. The absence of any artefact assemblage and the presence of the large pieces of charcoal might suggest that this pit was used for the manufacture of charcoal.

Area 2 lay 20m to the south-west of Area 1 and was identified as a possible pit/trough during testing. Prior to excavation, clean-up operations revealed a further two features. An irregularly shaped ovate pit, 2.2m in length by 1.2m wide, reached a maximum depth of 0.25m with an irregular base. No finds were recovered. It was cut by a roughly circular pit, 1.25m in diameter, with a moderately compacted fill that produced several small fragments of prehistoric pottery. Area 3 was sited approximately 35m to the northeast of Area 1. Testing defined this area as having a possible industrial function. Excavation refined this area into three distinct features. Two features were identified as field drains of post-medieval date. The third, a small area of localised burning, produced no datable material. The spread of industrial material that overlay the site appears to have been brought to this location from elsewhere and this would suggest that this place was used for a secondary function. The surface spread included charcoal and large amounts of slag. This may offer an explanation for this material and the lack of burning. It is possible that this area was used as a smithy in the direct method of iron smelting. Following the smelt, the bloom is removed from the furnace and brought away to be consolidated into wrought iron. This involved the pounding of the bloom with a heavy hammer to remove the slag and other impurities from the iron. Following this process it is possible to refine the iron by reintroducing it to heat.

Area 4 was a long, narrow raised feature running east-west across the site. It had been identified as being of potential interest during testing by Paul Stevens in 1998 (Excavations 1998, No. 24, 98E0517). Excavations produced post-medieval material, including a late 17th-/early 18th-century pipe bowl located under this feature. This suggests that this feature, while visually similar to a boundary wall, occurred through secondary deposition of stones, probably as a result of post-medieval land clearance.

Area 5 was sited 40m from Area 4. Excavations here revealed twelve features, two of which produced dating evidence. F15 was a figure-of-eight-shaped pit, 1.3m in length. The largest chamber was 0.8m in diameter and 0.7m in depth. The second chamber was 0.55m in diameter and 0.4m in depth. The two chambers were linked by a narrow channel, 0.4m in width and 0.14m in depth. Sherds of heat-damaged pottery were recovered from this feature. Subsequent analysis of the soil from this feature also revealed some very distinct clay artefacts. These were fragmentary but were all similar in that they had been formed into tubes. This raises a question over the date of the feature, as it is possible that this pit was a kiln used for forming both pottery and tuy_res for smelting.

The remaining features were largely pits and only one produced any artefacts. F18 produced a single sherd of possibly prehistoric pottery. The features did not take any form that might define a structure. These pits appear to represent localised industrial activity.

Area 6 was 20m to the south-east of Area 5. It was suspected that this area contained tree boles. This supposition was confirmed through excavation.

In general these features substantiate the results from previous excavations on the site by Deirdre Murphy in 2001 (Excavations 2001, No. 45, 01E0026) during road improvements, and by Tara O’Neill (Excavations 2002, Nos 78 and 79, 02E0569 and 02E1045) during subsequent building construction. Both excavations revealed evidence for prehistoric activity and early historic settlement. These features fall largely between these date ranges, representing peripheral activity from the main centres.