NMI Burial Excavation Records


Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 25:16(01) Licence number: 04E0501

Author: Ellinor Larsson, c/o Arch-Tech Ltd, 32 Fitzwilliam Place, Dublin 2.

Site type: Early medieval


ITM: E 718882m, N 724308m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.255800, -6.218317

Testing was undertaken in the area of a proposed residential development at Kilgobbin Lane/Enniskerry Road, Stepaside, Co. Dublin, in March and April 2004. The site had previously been identified as being an area of high archaeological potential in an assessment undertaken by Leo Swan in 1997. This earlier report identified a number of aerial photographic anomalies and areas of interest and recommended that a programme of test excavation be undertaken to assess their significance. The potential presence of additional burial activity in the area of the proposed development was one of the key concerns addressed by the testing programme.

Mechanical excavation of sixteen trenches was carried out, covering the topography of the fields and the previously identified anomalies, in the areas which were to be impacted upon by the development and its attendant services. This resulted in the identification of a number of archaeological features and finds. The features identified in the trenches were dispersed throughout the development, with a higher concentration directly to the south and southwest of the elevated church and the majority within the archaeological constraint zone of the church.

Areas of archaeological interest were encountered in five of the eight trenches opened in Field 1, situated to the west of the church. These consisted mainly of curvilinear ditches, pits, post-holes and spreads. Several finds of early medieval date were recovered, including unglazed local ware pottery and one decorated glass bead.

In Field 2, situated south of the church, seven out of the eight trenches revealed potential archaeological features and finds. The density of features increased in the vicinity of the church, mirroring the result of the trenches in Field 1. Three of the trenches indicated a high archaeological potential, with a large number of features being identified and several finds of early medieval local ware pottery recovered. Two features of special interest identified to the south of the church consisted of spreads of charcoal-rich clay with slag-like inclusions; these were interpreted as archaeological surfaces associated with metal production.

The finds mainly consisted of unglazed local ware pottery from the earlier part of the medieval period, of which the majority were found to the south of the church. A glass bead with a zigzag decoration, preliminarily dated to the early medieval period, was found in the top layer of one of the concentric ditches situated in proximity to the church.

The result of the testing concurs with the initial interpretation of the site as an area of high archaeological potential and appears to relate to the presence of the early medieval church. The location of the majority of the features and finds directly to the south and south-west of the enclosed church emphasises the importance of the monument and may indicate a secular addition to the ecclesiastical complex.