2004:0421 - BALLINTAGGERT/LISNAGONNELL, Down

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Down Site name: BALLINTAGGERT/LISNAGONNELL

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: AE/04/77

Author: Simon Large, Northern Archaeological Consultancy Ltd, Farset Enterprise Park, 638 Springfield Road, Belfast BT12 7DY.

Site type: Neolithic and Bronze Age

ITM: E 731123m, N 834105m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.238989, -5.988403

This licence was one of three issued to monitor and excavate a road development, from Loughbrickland, south, to Beechhill. The total distance was 9.5km with an additional 0.5km of side-arm excavations. As this development paralleled much of the existing A1, the development width varied between 30m and 100m. This work extended over a period of one year.

Following topsoil removal, an area c. 90m by 100m was identified as both a multi-period and multi-phase site. The area appeared as a flat, narrow ridge of land, which had been surrounded by water and/or waterlogged ground. The western slope of the site contained three Neolithic rectangular house slots.

House 1 was c. 7m by 5.5m. The slot survived to an average depth of 0.3m. Evidence of partial burning of the western wall was evident. A damaged polished stone axe and a large broken flint blade were recovered from the wall slot. The construction seems to have been of internal posts and posts in the wall slot. It may have been of split-plank construction; evidence of removal was also noted. A possible opening has been identified in the eastern wall. House 1 was orientated west-south-west/east-northeast.

House 2 measured c. 9m by 6m. The slot survived to an average depth of 0.1m. There was evidence of reconstruction of the western wall. A snapped leaf-shaped arrowhead was recovered from the wall slot. The construction seems to have been of internal posts and posts in the wall slot, with four external posts. It may have been a wattle wall construction. A possible door opening was identified in the south wall. House 2 was orientated on a similar line to House 1.

House 3 was 7m by 4.5m. The area had been severely disturbed and truncated by recent farming development. The slots survived to an average depth of 0.05m; in some places total removal had occurred. Some post-hole evidence survived, suggesting a similar construction technique to House 1. It was not possible to identify a door opening. A few fragments of flint were recovered from the wall slot. This house was orientated the same as the others. It is not possible to say at this time if the three houses were contemporary, successive replacements, or a combination of both.

The north-west area of the site contained a spread. This was also part of the disturbed area mentioned above. Within this spread, cut by a series of modern drains, over 1000 sherds of pottery were recovered. They have been provisionally dated to the Bronze Age.

The north-eastern area of the site was a two-phase habitation site. A number of post/stake-holes and hearths were identified. It is possible to suggest that the post/stake-holes formed a structure. This may have been either a simple hut or possibly a support frame. Dating was difficult, but, based on the limited artefactual evidence, Bronze Age activity is suggested.

The southern extent of the site contained three small hearths c. 0.4m by 0.35m. Some fragments of flint and a small pinch pot were recovered. The pot is believed to be a child’s toy. The diameter is 30mm, depth 25mm.

The central and eastern area of the site contained nine Bonze Age burials. Eight of these were marked by small ring-ditches around the central cremation insertion.

Ring-ditch 1 was c. 4m in diameter. The central cremation was mixed with a shattered undecorated bucket-shaped vessel, diameter 110mm, height 110mm. It is believed that the pot was shattered by a second insertion into the primary burial.

Ring-ditch 2, c. 5m in diameter, was the largest and most complex excavated. The primary cremation was contained in a cist with an oblong capstone. This had been disturbed, as the capstone was recovered from the upper ditch fill. The cist cut was marked by four small post-holes. There was no associated funerary vessel.

Ring-ditch 3 was c. 1m in diameter, the smallest example. The cremation was inserted directly in the ground. Early evidence from the recovered bones suggests a child or juvenile.

Ring-ditch 4 was c. 3m in diameter. The central cremation was contained in an undecorated urn. The urn was extensively damaged in prehistory but still intact, suggesting a second insertion. The urn was c. 0.25m in height and c. 0.24m in diameter.

Ring-ditch 5 was c. 3m in diameter. There were two cremations identified, both directly inserted into the ground. Each of the insertions was independent from the other, suggesting a coherent and deliberate burial strategy for two individuals at a similar or the same time.

Ring-ditch 6 was c. 4.5m in diameter. This ditch and central pit was the most truncated surviving example. The cremation was inserted directly into the ground. It is believed a portion of the cremation material may have been lost in the past.

Ring-ditch 7 was c. 4m, diameter. The central cremation was contained in an undecorated urn. The urn was c. 0.26m in height and c. 0.25m in diameter. The urn mouth was covered by a capstone.

Ring-ditch 8 was c. 4m in diameter. The central cremation was contained in an undecorated vase. The upper portion of the vase had been truncated in the past. The vase was c. 0.18m in height and c. 0.2m in diameter.

A ninth cremation was excavated north-west and adjacent to ring-ditch 7. It was marked by four postholes. Again the cremation was inserted directly into the ground. The post-marked burial seemed to respect ring-ditch 7.

The ring-ditch burials were not enclosed by a large outer ditch. Ditches 4-7 formed an alignment north-east/south-west, with the other ditches parallel to the main group.

Evidence of a stone circle, c. 12-15m in diameter, survived within the cemetery complex, but was partially destroyed by it. As there were no artefactual remains associated with the circle, no date can be suggested at this time.

Four metres south of ring-ditch 4 was a pit, diameter 1.5m. This pit contained several hundred sherds of Neolithic pottery and two pieces of worked flint.

Eighty metres north of the cemetery complex was a single cremation burial. The burial was within the truncated area discussed above. Only the shattered base of the vessel and some fragments of burnt bone survived.

Post-excavation work is ongoing.