NMI Burial Excavation Records


Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 25:16(01) Licence number: 04E0777

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

Site type: Early medieval


ITM: E 718925m, N 724248m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.255252, -6.217696

Monitoring was undertaken at the site of a residential development at Kilgobbin Lane/Enniskerry Road, Kilgobbin, Stepaside, Co. Dublin, in the summer of 2004. The site consisted of two fields situated directly to the west and south of the Early Christian church of Kilgobbin and a repositioned high cross. The site of the development was identified by Leo Swan in an assessment in 1997 as being an area of high archaeological potential. Prior to the monitoring programme, testing was undertaken (see No. 644 above, 04E0501), which revealed a large number of archaeological features, the majority situated in the vicinity of Kilgobbin Church.

Topsoil-stripping revealed fourteen areas of archaeological significance. Field 1, located to the west of the church, contained two larger areas of archaeological interest (Areas D1 and E) and four smaller areas (Areas D2, D3, D4 and F). Of these, Area D4 was excavated under licence 04E0981 by the author (No. 646 below). The remainder of the site was excavated by Teresa Bolger (No. 647 below, 04E1373). Field 2, located to the south of the church, contained eight areas of archaeological features (Areas A, B1-B6 and C), which were also excavated under licence 04E0981. The areas revealed evidence of late prehistoric to early historic date.

Area D1 was located to the west of Kilgobbin Church and within the archaeological constraint zone of this site. The exposed portion of the site measured 35m by 25m. The main features comprise two concentric ditches and one linear ditch, whichcrosses the inner, enclosed, area. To the east of and parallel with the linear ditch was a linear strip of lighter coloured subsoil, which was interpreted as the remains of the base of an earthen bank. A large number of pits, post-holes and areas of burning were identified in the area enclosed by these ditches. Preliminary investigation of the ditches revealed several recuts.

Excavation of the material from the exploratory trenches of the ditches yielded one copper-alloy pin, probably the stem of a ringed pin, and two copper-alloy fragments, which were trapezoidal in shape and less than 1mm in thickness. The ditch fills also contained iron slag and occasional finds of animal bone. It is very likely that the ditches extend to the south-east, enclosing the elevated church site, where topsoil-stripping has yet to be carried out. A rotary quern fragment was found in Area D1 during topsoil-stripping.

On the basis of the finds and the form of the features, the area was interpreted as containing the remains of an early medieval ecclesiastical settlement associated with the early church site. Avoidance was recommended in order to protect the archaeological features from further disturbance. The additional areas D2-D4 contained a limited number of similar features and were interpreted as peripheral features associated with the ecclesiastical enclosure.

Area D2 comprised a linear ditch feature, orientated north-west/south-east, extending from an unstripped area to the north-west of Site D1, and may be interpreted as a peripheral ditch feature associated with this. It had visible dimensions of 4m by 1.2m and a copper-alloy stickpin with a square, flat perforated head was retrieved during the excavation of an exploratory trench.

Area D3 consisted of a possible post-hole. No associated features were identified, although it was not possible to fully clean and define this area prior to the suspension of works, and other unidentified features may be present.

Area D4 consisted of one small pit, which, through subsequent excavation (licence 04E0981), was revealed to be of post-medieval/modern date.

Area E was located in the highest part of the development on gently sloping ground. The site contained a multitude of features widely dispersed over the area, such as pits, areas of burning and several possible kilns. The most prominent feature consisted of the arc of a circular gully, probably representing a structure associated with the kiln activity. Sherds of medieval pottery were found during topsoil-stripping scattered across the area. Additional ditches were noted crossing the area, probably representing more recent agricultural activity.

Area F contained two pits, situated 6.5m apart. A rubbing stone, possibly from a large saddle quern, was found in the vicinity of the features.

Finds retrieved from topsoil-stripping indicate that the identified features represent strong evidence for Early Christian/early medieval settlement, mainly through the large number of sherds of unglazed local cooking ware and glazed medieval pottery found. Also, a rotary quern fragment was found within the perimeter of Area D.

During monitoring of topsoil-stripping, finds indicating prehistoric activity were found such as several pieces of flint, including three scrapers (Field 1) and a rubbing stone from a saddle quern (Area F). There was a noticeable lack of modern debris, such as pottery, with the exception of the southern corner of Field 1, where modern habitation was identified corresponding with evidence of structures marked on the first-edition OS map of 1843.