2004:0860 - ABBEYLANDS, Kilkenny

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kilkenny Site name: ABBEYLANDS

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 46:8 Licence number: 04E1582 ext.

Author: Stuart D. Elder, The Archaeology Company, Birr Technology Centre, Mill Island, Birr, Co. Offaly.

Site type: Fulacht fiadh

ITM: E 643913m, N 652311m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 52.620260, -7.351470

As part of an ongoing series of investigations near Ferrybank on the outskirts of Waterford city and following on from test-trenching carried out by Daniel Noonan under the same licence, the remains of a ploughed-out fulacht fiadh were excavated.

Site 1 of thirteen sites identified comprised the remains of a burnt-mound spread, a possible metalled surface, a trough pit and a quarry pit. The burnt mound had been heavily truncated by past agricultural activity, as evidenced by the fact that plough scars existed in the subsoil to the immediate east and west of the mound spread. The mound itself was generally no greater than 0.1m in depth, although to the south-east it was recorded at 0.2m. The core of the mound was confined to the south of the trough, orientated roughly north-south, and measured c. 12m north-east/south-west by 6m. To the west of this, an area of stony ground may have been either metalling or degraded mound, as it contained very little charcoal-rich matrix compared to the mound core. Also, to the east of the trough, there was another area of similar stones; it is interesting to note that they appeared at either end of the mound. Perhaps they represent a working/walking surface of some kind? The overall spread of stony material measured c. 15m north-west/south-east by 13m.

The trough was characterised by an elongated oval pit, narrower at the eastern end than at the western. It was orientated west-north-west/eastsouth-east, measured 4.1m in length and was between 0.9m and 1.9m in width, with a depth of between 0.17m and 0.29m. It had steeply sloping concave sides and a flattened base sloping towards the north-western end. There were a number of large stones within the fill at the north-western end, including two long narrow stones measuring up to 1m in length and 0.2m in width and thickness, which were found lying side by side. Towards the centre, there was a north-east/south-west line of medium-sized stones and backfilled mound material that may indicate deliberate reduction in the trough volume. From the central stones towards the south-eastern end along the southern side of the trough, there was a line of stones, and two stones along the northern edge suggesting a similar line having been present there at some stage. This may possibly suggest a stone lining, or may equally indicate the retention of a number of large stones for reuse at a later date. Many of the stones showed evidence of heat reddening, including the pillar stones at the western end.

The tapering shape of the trough pit is unusual. Although trough shapes are generally square, rectangular, oval or round, asymmetrical trough pits are not unknown. Nor is it unusual for there to have been a partial backfilling of the trough resulting in the reduction of its overall capacity. In this instance, it appears as though the trough pit was reduced in size across the middle.

The large pit to the west of the trough appears to have been excavated early in the development of the site, as burnt-mound material was noted lining the sides of the feature. This shows that the pit was open during the time in which the mound was accumulating. The pit was filled with a silty deposit, suggesting a gradual filling in of the feature as opposed to a deliberate backfilling. With large stones noted in the fill and the surrounding subsoil, it is obvious that large stones were readily available in the local environment. This feature has therefore been interpreted as a quarry pit.

The site also featured an intriguing northeast/south-west-oriented linear arrangement of stone sockets, roughly equally spaced, aligned with a V-shaped notch on the western horizon formed by a gap between several hills. The southern end of the Monavullagh Mountains, which features many recorded prehistoric monuments, could be seen rising behind the notch. It is perhaps purely coincidence, but the possibility of a deliberate alignment of boulders is being explored. Post-excavation work is ongoing.