2004:0599 - 4-8 CHURCH STREET, FINGLAS, Dublin

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Dublin Site name: 4-8 CHURCH STREET, FINGLAS

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 04E0900

Author: John Kavanagh, National Archaeological Services Ltd, Ard Solas, Lackan, Blessington, Co. Wicklow.

Site type: Viking/medieval/post-medieval

ITM: E 712975m, N 738867m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.387872, -6.301618

During the summer and autumn of 2004 an excavation was carried out in advance of the development of an apartment complex at 4-8 Church Street, Finglas. The site (75m by 40m) lay just to the west of the medieval church of St Canice. A mechanical excavator removed the topsoil from across the site.

The earliest phase of activity was identified towards the southern end of the site close to the boundary wall. A substantial ditch, aligned east-west, extended across the site for 40m and continued under the adjacent cemetery wall. The feature was sealed under 0.4m of medieval ploughsoil. The ditch had a width of 4.2m and an average depth of 2.6m. There was no evidence of a bank. The ditch was filled with deposits of silts, sands and clays. Fragments of a wooden bucket were recovered from the fill.

A Viking burial was found close to St Canice's Church at the north end of the site. The burial was aligned east-west and placed in a shallow grave-cut, with the upper body slightly raised. Approximately 65% of the skeleton was present. The position of the crushed skull suggested that the head was turned to the right. The right hand was placed over the pelvic area, with the left hand resting on the right shoulder. The left humerus and lower legs were truncated by recent drainage works. Preliminary analysis identified the remains as that of a female aged between 25 and 35 years of age. A well-preserved gold and silver gilded oval brooch was found positioned over the left hand. Small fragments of textile were recovered from inside the brooch. The fragmentary remains of a second oval brooch and small fragments of copper were found attached to some of the rubble covering the human remains. An unusually long bone comb (0.15m) was found close to the right femur. The oval brooch has been dated to the late 9th century. An isolated post-hole with a stake-hole on either side may have functioned as a grave marker.

The principal feature from the medieval period was a substantial ditch that extended across the central area of the site and was aligned east-west. The dimensions of the feature were impressive, with a depth of up to 4.2m and a width of 7.1m. The ditch was filled with deposits of silts, sands and clays. Numerous artefacts were recovered from the fills, including medieval pottery, tiles, pins and fragments of a bone comb. Massive quantities of animal bone were also recovered. The remains of the internal bank were severely eroded and only survived to a height of 0.55m.

The area to the north of the ditch contained large numbers of domestic rubbish pits and the fragmentary remains of drains and shallow ditches from the medieval period onwards. A wide variety of artefacts were recovered from these features, including pottery, tiles, bone artefacts and corroded fragments of iron and slag. There was some evidence from these pits to suggest that small-scale metalworking was carried out on the site.

The remains of a poorly preserved structure from the medieval period were found close to the northern end of the site. The surviving portions consisted of the lowest course of an east-west-aligned wall and the associated metalled surface. A small well was to the west of the structure.

A total of 22 burials were found alongside and partially under the cemetery wall to the east of the site. The wall was rebuilt during the 20th century on a slightly different alignment. Associated finds would suggest that the burials date from the 18th or 19th century onwards. The foundations of a late 19th-century cottage truncated the northern end of the site and may have destroyed some additional burials.

The excavation revealed the remains of a substantial ditch extending across the southern end of the site. Although no datable evidence was recovered, the feature was sealed under medieval deposits. The ditch was located roughly along the line of the early monastic enclosure of Finglas, where it had been suggested by Leo Swan to be present. The second wider ditch yielded large quantities of artefacts from the medieval period onwards. Preliminary investigations would suggest that this feature might have been associated with the Archbishop's Manor, built in the 12th century, and with the defensive earthworks known as King William's Ramparts, which may originally have dated from the medieval period.