NMI Burial Excavation Records


Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 04E1066

Author: Antoine Giacometti, 71 The Coombe, Dublin 8, for Arch-Tech Ltd.

Site type: Ring-ditch

ITM: E 721207m, N 742854m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.421858, -6.176396

The site was identified during monitoring (03E1505) by Stephen Johnson for a residential development. The development is just to the south-west of the junction of the Malahide Road and the new M1 Northern Motorway. The site was situated on high ground that sloped gently down to the north. A second site, Mountgorry Site A, located 150m to the south-east, is currently being excavated and will be reported on in Excavations 2005.

Mountgorry Site B consisted of a circular ditch opening to the south-east. A single large pit filled with charcoal and burnt bone was found in the centre of the ring-ditch. These features were associated with Bronze Age pottery. A number of post-medieval agricultural features were also present.

The ring-ditch was of subcircular shape with fairly steep edges and a concave base. It measured 18m (north-south) by 20m in diameter and c. 0.25m in depth. The width of the ditch varied from 0.5m to 0.9m, averaging 0.6m. A 3m-wide entrance into the ditched enclosure was found to the south-east. The ditch thinned noticeably to 0.3m in width at the entrance terminus. The ditch was substantially levelled, probably due to modern agricultural activity. It was also cut by three east-west-running field drains.

In general, the ditch was primarily filled by a pale-yellowish-brown sandy silt with small stones, animal bone and flecks of charcoal. Over this was a dark-grey clayish-silt with burnt and unburnt stone, animal bone and frequent charcoal. Two pieces of unworked flint and one possible crude flint scraper were retrieved from the fill. Two fragments of a heat-fractured polished stone and fragments of Bronze Age pottery were recovered from the northern end of the fill.

A single large pit was located centrally within the area enclosed by the ring-ditch. It was an irregular oval shape and measured 1.9m long (north-south) by 1.7m wide and 0.45m deep. The sides of the pit were generally steep, but along the eastern edge the side was vertical or slightly undercut. A number of small pockets or notches were noted within the pit, c. 0.15m in diameter.

The fill consisted of a dark-greyish-black clayish-silt with a high frequency of charcoal. Ash was noted towards the base of the pit, but otherwise the fill was relatively homogenous. The fill also contained fire-cracked pebbles and small stones, and burnt and unburnt bone. Small fragments of possible Bronze Age pottery were also retrieved from the pit. Based on the feature's irregular shape (suggesting numerous cuts), central location within the ditch enclosure, and fill, it is suggested that it functioned as a multiple burial pit.

Fragments of pottery, preliminarily dated to the Bronze Age, were recovered from the ditch fill and the central pit. A Bronze Age date fits in well with the general date range for ring-ditches. Ring-ditch sites are not uncommon and generally consist of a circular or penannular ditch ranging from 5m to 25m in diameter. All are associated with cremated human remains, which are generally found in the ditch or in separate pits. At several of the excavated sites, for example Kilmahuddrick, Co. Dublin, excavated by Ian W. Doyle (Excavations 2000, No. 225, 00E0448), and Tullyallen, Co. Louth, excavated by Robert M. Chapple (Excavations 2000, No. 715, 00E0429), a centrally located pit within the enclosed area revealed cremated bone and Bronze Age pottery.

John Waddell suggests (Waddell 2000, 161) that simple cremations in pits associated with ring-ditch sites may date to the later part of the Bronze Age, after 1500 BC. Ring-barrows and ring-ditches appear to have been constructed from the later Bronze Age to the early centuries AD (ibid., 366-8). These monuments relate to funerary practices that generally involved cremation (ibid., 368).

Waddell, J. 2000 The prehistoric archaeology of Ireland. Bray, Co. Wicklow.