2004:0477 - CARRICKMINES GREAT, Dublin

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Dublin Site name: CARRICKMINES GREAT

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 04E0773

Author: Red Tobin, Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd, 27 Merrion Square, Dublin 2.

Site type: Various

ITM: E 722003m, N 724227m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.254361, -6.171603

Excavations were carried out in the townland of Carrickmines Great, Co. Dublin, in advance of a commercial development and infrastructure works. Monitoring of the topsoil removal took place during May 2004. The topsoil-strip corresponded to the main access, drainage and cabling routes and the Phase 1 development. This development is a large-scale retail outlet with extensive car parking. Access to this retail park will be from the South Eastern Motorway, which bounds the site to the north.

Two significant archaeological sites occur in close proximity to the proposed development, most notably Carrickmines Castle and ancillary earthworks (SMR 26:5), lying immediately to the north-east, and the Pale Boundary (SMR 26:115) to the north-west.

During the course of the topsoil-strip, 22 areas of archaeological potential were demarcated for examination. All features were identified by the presence of charcoal, in situ burning/oxidisation or soil discolouration. Several of the features were likely to be the result of relatively recent field clearance work or land improvements. The landscape showed evidence for the removal of field systems to expand the ploughlands into substantial open farmlands. Previous archaeological work in the environs of this development has revealed little. The type of site identified beyond the limits of 'The Pale' is marginal in nature, prehistoric in date and peripheral to any settlement. The artefact-bearing nature of the soil is quite disappointing; flint is present in the soil but largely natural fragments and small nodules carried in the glacial drift.

During testing it was possible to conclude that nine possible sites were natural in origin, two were substantial land drains and two were tree boles. The remainder of the sites are of archaeological origin. These features are grouped on the well-drained soils but have been heavily truncated during agricultural works over the last thirty years. Of the archaeological features only five survived in any substantial form.

Site 1, NGR 321084.413 223837.274, 87.163m OD
This site was identified in the course of topsoil-stripping as an isolated patch of oxidised clay. The deposit was 0.4m in diameter and a few millimetres in thickness. It was tested and shown to have no relation to any other archaeological material. The nature of the material defines it as the lowest stratigraphic deposit of a fire or event involving burning. No further archaeological work was deemed necessary at this location.

Site 2, 321086.109 223757.607, 87.006m OD
This site was identified in the course of topsoil-stripping as an isolated patch of oxidised clay. The deposit was 0.45m in diameter and a few millimetres in thickness. It was tested and shown to have no relation to any other archaeological material. The nature of the material defines it as the lowest stratigraphic deposit of a fire or event involving burning. No further archaeological work was deemed necessary at this location.

Site 8, 321085.138 223876.337, 86.695m OD
This site was identified in the course of topsoil-stripping as an isolated patch of oxidised clay 0.5m in diameter, F4. During testing a second feature (F2) was identified to the west of F4. This was subrectangular in plan and extended to 0.75m in diameter north-south by 1.2m. F2 was excavated by hand and found to be a shallow pit or hearth with gradual sloping sides and a flat base with a single fill. It is likely that these features are shallow fire pits with, in the case of F2, a single fill representing a transient single usage, while F4 is the remains of a similar hearth heavily truncated by agricultural activity.

Site 10, 321169.697 223863.968 85.633m OD
The site was identified during topsoil-stripping as a large area, approximately 15m2, of concentrated burning and intense discolouration. Deposits of charcoal-rich soil and heat-shattered stones (F2) suggested that the site might represent a fulachtfiadh. This firing material deposit was also associated with a dense cover of dark-brown, peaty material (F3) overlying the firing material. Analysis showed it to contain no charcoal. A series of circular and subcircular pits lie adjacent to the F2 material and would appear to be the focus of industrial activity on this site. It appears that the F2 material and the pits are indicative of Site 10's use period. The F3 and F4 materials overlying F2 represent material washed in or silted up after the abandonment of the site.

The main spread of F2 was irregular in plan with a tendency to a 'horseshoe' shape, defined by a subrectangular open area (F23) on the north side of the F2 spread. Three pits of uniform size were recorded in the western part of F23. These pits, F6, F7 and F9, all display similar features that suggest a consistency of use. F6 and F7 show evidence of use, while F9 appears to have been prepared but never actually used. The proportions of these three pits and the consistency of their fills suggest a connection through function. It is hard to determine what that function might be, but the presence of deliberately placed and spaced granite stones suggests that the activity may have taken place above, or was supported on, the stones, as against being contained within the pit.

F17, a wide, shallow pit with steep sides and a sloping base, was contained within the main spread of F2 material. It was well defined and cut into the natural. It was 2m in length and 1.6m in width, reaching a maximum depth of 0.34m. The southern extremity of the pit was defined by a deliberately constructed facing of granite stones. The fill was composed in the main of F2 material incorporating some larger fragments of granite, similar to the pits F6, F7 and F9. F17 displays all of the features associated with a trough and maintains the right proportions for such a feature. If this is the case, then it is directly associated with the use process of the F2 spread and supports an interpretation that the site did function as a fulacht fiadh.

Preliminary evaluation of the material is not conclusive and adds little interpretative strength to the excavation as above. It may be possible to date the features if sufficient quantities of charcoal are available. Further research into the interpretation of the pits is required. It would appear that Site 10 is that of a fulachta fiadh or burnt mound with a central trough (F17) and an array of small roasting pits (F6, F7, F9 and F19), possibly used for heating the stones in small quantities.

Site 13, 321198.342 223810.556, 85.843m OD
This site was exposed during the topsoil-stripping as two distinct areas of discolouration and blackened soil. Approximately 0.3m of soil was removed to identify the features and further topsoil was removed to assess their nature and extent.

Excavation revealed an extensive area of localised burning (F2), 3.8m east-west by 3.1m. The material defines an area irregular in plan consisting of burnt peat and vegetation within and surrounded by a larger deposit of peat. The F2 material appears to have been the result of deliberate burning but not of an industrial nature and is likely to be a result of the clearance of agricultural land. This burning event only penetrated to a depth of 0.2m. Excavation was halted after extensive testing revealed that this site had no structural, industrial or artefactual content. While the F2 burning event is likely to have had an archaeological origin, perhaps as evidence of land clearance, it is sufficient to record the event.

Site 17, 321183.984 223733.257, 86.032m OD
Site 17 was revealed during topsoil-stripping as an isolated pit/hearth displaying evidence for direct burning. The topsoil was c. 0.3m in depth. A subcircular to oval area of burning, 0.89m in length and 0.74m in width and reaching a total depth of 0.13m, was exposed. The fill consisted of loose, dark-grey/black sandy soil with charcoal inclusions and a small percentage of small stones and gravel. It also contained an abundance of charred seeds. These suggest a more complex interpretation than a simple hearth. Seed identification will suggest a possible date range, which can then be confirmed through 14C analysis.

Site 22, 321222.689 223862.097, 84.238m OD
This site was revealed during the course of the topsoil removal. It was first identified as a small localised deposit of black soil and later the presence of cremated bone was confirmed. 0.3m of topsoil was removed; this material has been systematically ploughed and cultivated for the last thirty years.

The cremation pit is identified by a circular deposit of dark-black silty clay with loose compaction containing c. 30% burnt bone. The fill was also notable for the frequency of sub-angular stones of 10-40mm in size. It also contained flecks of oxidised clay throughout. The pit cut is circular in plan, measuring 0.46m by 0.53m in diameter and reaching a maximum depth of 0.2m. The total content was removed from the site for analysis. The cremated bone has been extracted from the soil sample and the soil has also produced a large amount of charcoal; charred seeds are also present.

The evidence accrued in the course of this project suggests that the archaeological activity was ephemeral in nature and in keeping with the landscape of the time. It is likely that the area was poorly drained, with an abundance of retained surface water. The poor drainage marginalised this land until the 20th century, when land improvement grants made it a viable option to undertake a large-scale drainage project to change the land use from rough pasture to tillage.