2004:0497 - DARCYTOWN, Dublin

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Dublin Site name: DARCYTOWN

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 03E0067 ext.

Author: Ken Wiggins, Judith Carroll & Co. Ltd, 13 Anglesea Street, Temple Bar, Dublin 2.

Site type: Bronze Age cremation cemetery and fulachta fiadh

ITM: E 715826m, N 734698m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.349805, -6.260310

An 11-acre field on the Skerries Road, Balrothery, is to be developed for housing by Fingal County Council. Testing carried out in 2003 by Stuart Halliday and Jane Hamill revealed some material of significance, including a cremation deposit contained in an upright coarseware vessel (Excavations 2003, No. 461). The stripping of topsoil on the site, commencing on 15 November 2004, was monitored and six areas containing material of archaeological significance were identified. The most substantial of these were: Area 2, containing several cremation deposits in upright ceramic vessels; Area 4, consisting of a moderately large burnt-stone spread; and Area 5, comprising a number of relatively small burnt-stone spreads. The excavation of Areas 1 and 2 commenced at the end of November 2004. Area 1 consisted of a single bowl-shaped pit, subcircular in plan, which measured 0.96m (north-south) by 0.77m and 0.35m deep. The primary fill consisted of loose, black, medium silty sand and contained 40% inclusions of charcoal. The upper fill consisted of medium compact mid-brown silty clay and contained 15-20% inclusions of angular to sub-rounded pebbles.

Area 2 measured c. 30m by 30m and was by far the largest of the six archaeological areas in the field. The area comprised: seven pits containing cremated bone and substantially intact prehistoric vessels; one pit containing cremated bone and prehistoric vessel fragments; three pits containing cremated bone but no pottery; four pits containing less than 2% cremated bone inclusions; two related pits which contained prehistoric pottery but no cremated bone; six other pits; nine cultivation furrows of relatively recent origin; and one other linear feature.

The seven pits containing both cremated remains and substantially preserved vessels were C9, C25, C27, C36, C82, C84 and C88. All seven cremation pits were lifted intact by a conservator for excavation in the laboratory and conservation treatment of the pottery.

Cremation pit C57 was largely destroyed by a cultivation furrow. The pit was subcircular in plan and measured 0.26m (north-south) by 0.22m by 0.04m deep. The fill was composed of loose mid-brown coarse silty sand with 25% inclusions of small sub-angular pebbles and 5% inclusions of cremated bone. It also contained two sherds of prehistoric pottery.

Three other pits in Area 2, C5, C6 and C29, contained cremated bone but no pottery. Pit C5 was subcircular in plan, measuring 0.3m (north-south) by 0.27m by 0.07m deep. Its fill consisted of loose mid-brown medium silty sand with 10% inclusions of small burnt-bone pieces. Pit C6 was subcircular in plan, measuring 0.2m (north-south) by 0.26m by 0.05m deep. It contained cremated fill, which consisted of loose mid- to dark-brown fine silty sand with 15% inclusions of cremated bone. Pit C29 was substantially disturbed by a cultivation furrow and linear feature C35. The pit was originally subcircular in plan, measuring 16m in diameter and 0.22m deep. It was lined with cobble-sized, flat and sub-angular stones and its fill consisted of dark-black silty clay with 15-20% inclusions of small burnt-bone pieces, 15% charcoal and 5% small stones of angular to sub-rounded shape.

Three pits, C8, C26 and C62, contained only faint traces of cremated bone. A fourth pit, C7, contained a single piece of cremated bone. Pit C8 was subcircular in plan and measured 0.18m (north-south) by 0.13m by 0.13m deep. The fill was composed of loose mid- to dark-brown clayey silt with 15% inclusions of small sub-rounded pebbles and less than 1% burnt bone. Pit C26 was subcircular in plan and measured 0.19m (north-south) by 0.22m by 0.16m deep. The fill was composed of loose mid-to dark-brown fine silty sand with less than 1% inclusions of burnt bone. Pit C62 was circular in plan and measured 0.21m (north-south) by 0.2m by 0.11m deep. The fill was composed of loose dark-brown clayey silt with 2% inclusions of small sub-rounded pebbles and less than 2% burnt bone. Pit C7 was a subcircular-shaped cut that measured 0.7m (north-south) by 0.9m by 0.28m deep. The fill consisted of loose dark-blue/black fine silty sand with 15% inclusions of red sandstone and other sub-angular stones, together with a single piece of cremated bone and a small rounded stone artefact.

Two pits, C10 and C90, were located on the western side of Area 2. Both produced a large quantity of prehistoric pottery sherds, including rim sherds decorated with horizontal grooves. The fill of both cuts also contained substantial amounts of charcoal. Pit C10 was sub-oval in plan and was orientated north-north-west/south-south-east. It measured 0.76m long by 0.65m wide by 0.22m deep. The primary fill was composed of relatively firm mid-grey silty sand with 5% inclusions of small sub-rounded and sub-angular pebbles and 2% charcoal flecking. The upper fill consisted of medium compact black fine sandy silt with 15% inclusions of charcoal pieces and 15% of angular sandstone fragments. Finds included sixteen sherds of prehistoric pottery and three worked flints.

Pit C90 was an elongated oval shape in plan and measured 3.37m (north-north-west/south-south-east) by 1.4m by 1.18m deep. The fill was composed of medium compact dark-brown sandy silt with 40% inclusions of light- to mid-brown clay, 10% of angular sandstone and 3% of charcoal flecking. The fill contained 24 sherds of prehistoric pottery, very similar to the pottery found in pit C10, and three pieces of flint.

Six other pits were present in Area 2, which contained neither prehistoric pottery nor cremated remains. The fill of one pit had 10% inclusions of angular heat-shattered stones.

A linear feature, C30, orientated in a north-west to south-east direction, was located along the southern side of Area 2. The ditch measured 20.6m long, 0.88m wide and 0.46m deep. It had a V-shaped profile and a rounded terminal at each end. There were three fills, C35, C21 and C44. The primary fill, C35, consisted of loose mid-brown silty clay with 15% inclusions of sub-rounded tiny pebbles. C44 was a roughly sub-oval lens wholly enclosed within fill C35. It was composed of moderately compact dark-brownish-black silty clay with 30% inclusions of redeposited natural throughout, occasional charcoal flecks and frequent moderately sorted small stones. Fill C35 was superimposed by fill C21, a thin layer of poorly sorted sub-rounded cobble-sized stones in loose mid-brown silty clay. Ditch C30 did not produce any diagnostic artefacts and its origin and function are uncertain.

It was expected that the excavation of Area 2 would be completed early in January 2005 and the excavation of Areas 3-6 completed by the end of the same month.