2004:0469 - BALLYNAKELLY, Dublin

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Dublin Site name: BALLYNAKELLY

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 04E1427

Author: Christine Baker, Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd.

Site type: Enclosure and Habitation site

Period/Dating: Medieval (AD 400-AD 1600)

ITM: E 700354m, N 728133m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.293992, -6.494674

Testing was undertaken at this site at Ballynakelly, Newcastle Lyons, following a geophysical survey carried out by Joanna Leigh of Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd in October 2004 (licence 04R130), which identified two curvilinear anomalies 28m apart that may constitute a double enclosure. Contained within the possible inner enclosure and between the possible inner and outer enclosures were a series of anomalies of archaeological potential that may correlate with settlement activity. The main body of activity was transected by a broad linear anomaly, which was interpreted in advance of the test excavation as a possible boundary or sunken laneway.

Six trenches were excavated by machine grading bucket to the top of archaeological deposits (where they existed) or to the natural subsoil. In order to establish the nature and potential of the archaeological deposits, 55% of the features identified were subject to hand-dug sondages. Twenty features of archaeological significance and a large drainage pipe were identified during testing. From cartographic evidence, the position of the drain appears to reflect the layout of a track or laneway depicted on the first-edition OS map of 1837 and the aerial photographs of the 1970s. The defined arc also visible on the aerial photographs south and east of the main centre of activity was not identified on the ground. It extends from the linear drainage trench and may have had a drainage function. Although no diagnostic artefacts were recovered, the nature of the remainder of the exposed features indicates archaeological activity.

The concentration of this activity, as illustrated by the strong responses in the geophysical survey towards the northern limit of the field, was confirmed by the excavation, which identified four possible ditches, four possible pits, two possible slot-trenches and an intercutting area of activity possibly indicating habitation. The presence of two similarly aligned ditches was confirmed through the test excavation programme. Morphologically they were disparate. F7 is a large wide ditch (2.4m in width, 0.6m in depth), which appears to form an enclosing element due the presence of possible structural and habitation material to the west of it. F19 is smaller in scale (1–1.4m in width, 0.3m in depth) and is characterised by in situ burning and the presence of charcoal. There was no evidence for the deposition of human remains within the possible inner enclosure as defined by F7, a defining characteristic of an early medieval ecclesiastical enclosure (although the fragmentary nature of the animal bone retrieved should be borne in mind). An excavation in the same townland north of the R120, immediately opposite the current site, undertaken by Red Tobin (Excavations 2003, No. 459, 03E0369), displayed all the components of a small fulacht fiadh, including a narrow trough and flanking spreads of firing material. This evidence for Bronze Age activity in relative proximity to the current site may be indicative of a focus of prehistoric activity to the east of the medieval urban settlement that constitutes Newcastle.

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