2004:0437 - KILNATIERNY, Down

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Down Site name: KILNATIERNY

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: AE/04/84

Author: Emily Murray, School of Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen's University Belfast

Site type: Midden

Period/Dating: Prehistoric (12700 BC-AD 400)

ITM: E 756597m, N 868277m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.538617, -5.579946

Five shallow shell midden lenses were discovered when a foundation trench was dug in the townland of Kilnatierny near Greyabbey, Co. Down, in October 2003. The trenches also cut through relict raised beach gravels and there were stray finds of flint in the immediate vicinity. A small rescue excavation of one of the midden lenses and a topographic survey, to tie the features into the local landscape, was carried out from 24 May to 3 June 2004 on behalf of the Environment and Heritage Service: Built Heritage.

The midden lenses were designated Midden Lenses A–E and each was recorded with photographs and section drawings. Midden Lens A represented one of the deepest (c. 0.5m thick) and best preserved of the lenses and was investigated in more detail. Two small trenches were opened: Trench 1 was 3.5m long and 1.5m wide and Trench 2 was 0.8m long and 0.8m wide. The composition of the archaeological deposits varied across the length of the trenches but principally comprised a shell layer (0.12–0.26m thick), made up mainly of oyster shells, overlying a charcoal-rich layer (0.1–0.18m thick) which overlay the raised beach gravels. An informal hearth represented by a shallow depression and lenses of ash was found in the north-eastern corner of Trench 1.

No firm dating evidence was obtained, but the flints, both stray finds and those found in context in the excavated layers, are suggestive of prehistoric activity. A preliminary inspection of the flints indicated that they do not form a diagnostic assemblage (E. Nelis, pers. comm.), although one possible Bann-like flake was found within the disturbed shell layer of Midden Lens E, and scatters and stray finds of flints, predominately late Mesolithic, have been found in the general Greyabbey Bay area (McErlean et al. 2002, 428 and 435). There were no other material finds from the excavation trenches, such as metalwork or pottery. There was also little animal bone present and the only positive identification of any of this material so far is of pig (teeth), which could have come from either wild or domestic animals. Charcoal was present in all of the archaeological deposits and this will facilitate the submission of multiple samples for radiocarbon dating.

The topographic survey demonstrated that the upper margins of the beach gravels are at an elevation of between +4.8m and +6.8m OD. This elevation falls within the levels given by McErlean et al. (2002, 31–2) for post-glacial deposits within the lough. The exposed profiles showed that the midden lenses were all located at the highest levels of these raised beach gravels.

McErlean, T., McConkey, R., and Forsythe, W. 2002 Strangford Lough: an archaeological survey of the marine cultural landscape. Belfast.