2004:0141 - CAHIRCALLA MORE (Site AR128), Clare

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Clare Site name: CAHIRCALLA MORE (Site AR128)

Sites and Monuments Record No.: CL033-163001 and CL033-163003 Licence number: 04E0029

Author: Kate Taylor, TVAS Ltd.

Site type: Enclosure and Field system

Period/Dating: Early Medieval (AD 400-AD 1099)

ITM: E 532476m, N 675576m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.826916, -9.001951

A large subcircular enclosure with a maximum internal dimension of 38m was excavated on the N18 Ennis bypass adjacent to the Kilrush road. The enclosure was defined by a ditch 0.75–1.53m wide and 0.2–0.8m deep. Artefacts found within the enclosure and in the ditch included a piece of rotary quern, fragments of iron slag, animal bone and an iron tool, possibly a chisel.

At the southern end of the enclosure were the remains of the foundations of a small building in the form of three short lengths of curvilinear gully. The structure was oval in plan with internal dimensions of 6.3m by 4.4m. The gully segments were typically 0.65m wide and 0.4m deep, with straight sides and a flat base. The gully fills contained large quantities of charcoal and iron slag. Within the building were two pits. These measured 1.41m by 0.5m and 0.15m deep, and 1.19m by 0.75m and 0.3m deep. There was some evidence of in situ burning in the base of one of the pits. The pit fills were similar to those of the gully segments and also produced considerable quantities of iron slag.

The ditched enclosure was shown to be an integral part of a rectangular field system that was defined by linear ditches. Finds from these field ditches included a copper-alloy ring pin, whetstones, including a pin-sharpening stone, a small quantity of iron slag, animal bone fragments and struck chert pieces.

The presence of the field ditches and the discovery of quernstones and fragments of animal bone suggest an agricultural settlement. However, there was evidence of just one structure within the enclosure and this was not a domestic building. Evidence of ironworking adds an industrial element to the character of the site.

Without radiocarbon dates the site can at present be broadly assigned to the second half of the first millennium or possibly the beginning of the second millennium AD.

Rural settlement in the west of Ireland during the Early Christian, and indeed the medieval, period is relatively poorly understood. Ringforts and cashels are a fairly common feature of the landscape, but other settlement types are rarely discovered and the relationships between ringfort and non-ringfort settlements, both chronological and functional, are not clear. Hopefully this new site will help to clarify some of these issues.

Ahish, Ballinruan, Crusheen, Co. Clare