2004:0346 - BALLYARNET, Derry

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Derry Site name: BALLYARNET

Sites and Monuments Record No.: LDY14A-026 Licence number: AE/04/64

Author: John Ó Néill, Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork

Site type: Habitation site and Mound

Period/Dating: Bronze Age (2200 BC-801 BC)

ITM: E 643943m, N 920810m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 55.032888, -7.312627

The 2002 investigations here identified the site as being defined by a wooden platform overlain by a series of deposits of cultural material and enclosed by a palisade (Excavations 2002, No. 376, AE/02/71). The outer rings of one of the palisade posts has been dated to 334439 BP or 1740–1520 BC (UB-4893). The 2004 season focused on the mitigation of the archaeological deposits under immediate threat from drainage.

Several areas of the site were investigated in 2004, including a mound 15m to the north of the area examined in 2002. The date of this mound had not previously been established, but a single trench opened across part of the mound identified that it is relatively modern, as sherds of blackware were recovered from directly beneath it.

An area of the Bronze Age lake settlement was fully excavated where it appeared that ongoing drainage would have a detrimental effect on the preservation of any waterlogged deposits that were present. In total, an area of c. 45m2 of the site was fully excavated, extending the areas examined around Trenches 1, 2 and 4, as opened in 2002. The stratigraphic sequence present on the site was relatively straightforward. The initial construction of the platform and palisade was followed by the erection of a series of posts around a hearth. The posts defined an area some 6m in diameter, and two substantially deeper posts in the interior suggest that a roofed structure was present. A deposit of clay in the centre of the structure formed the base of the hearth, which was resurfaced on a number of occasions. In 2002 this feature was visible in section and had been considered to be a furnace or oven. A deposit of stones was subsequently added to the floor of the structure. The structure was sealed by a substantial deposit of burnt material, including some burnt stone, although in very low quantities (<10%).

The finds that were recovered from the excavated deposits are relatively homogenous. Large numbers of sherds of cordoned urn and undecorated coarsewares were found across both trenches. A preliminary examination suggests that more than twelve vessels can be identified, on the basis of decoration and rim forms. Further quantities of metalworking debris were also recovered, along with fragments of saddle querns, hammer stones, a polished stone axe fragment, a possible anvil stone and a number of other stones displaying use or wear. The chipped stone assemblage included a second tanged projectile point (similar to one recovered in 2002), scrapers, debitage and various modified flakes. Other finds included a possible net weight and a fragment of a faience bead.

A trench that had been previously opened across the palisade in 2002 (Trench 3) was reopened to try to obtain a sample suitable for dendrochronological dating. As in 2002, the oak posts that were recovered did not retain long enough sequences of year rings to be able to provide a valid date.

It is anticipated that post-excavation analysis will shed further light on the date and nature of both prehistoric structures. The excavation benefited greatly from the participation of Dr Bruce Bradley from the School of Geography, Archaeology and Earth Resources, University of Exeter, a group of archaeology students from Exeter, and volunteers from the United States.

School of Archaeology & Palaeoecology, Queen's University Belfast