2005:1339 - KILTEASHEEN, Roscommon

County: Roscommon Site name: KILTEASHEEN

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 6:12, 6:13 Licence number: 05E0531

Author: Christopher Read, North West Archaeological Services, Cloonfad Cottage, Cloonfad, Carrick-on-Shannon, Co. Leitrim.

Site type: Medieval

ITM: E 586777m, N 806233m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.005162, -8.201704

Preliminary excavation was carried out at Kilteasheen, Knockvicar, in June 2005 as part of a joint research project between Thomas Finan of Webster University, St Louis, and Christopher Read of IT Sligo. The site was run as a training excavation for American and Irish students. Kevin Barton completed a second season of topographical and geophysical survey on site, generously funded by the Heritage Council. The site is indicated on the OS maps as the ‘Bishop’s Seat’ and includes a ruined medieval parish church and a small rectilinear ditched platform that is part of a larger field system. The site derives its name from annalistic references to a ‘cuirt’ or palace being constructed on the site in the 13th century by Thomas O’Conor, Bishop of Elphin. The site has numerous other associations with members of the O’Conor family, including Aedh and Felim O’Conor, kings of Connacht during the 13th century. The site is situated on high ground overlooking the confluence of the River Boyle and Lough Key, guarding the main route between the lake and the River Shannon. The ongoing surveying programme has identified a number of interesting anomalies over several acres, although the initial excavation specifically targeted the church and the platform.

Initially, three cuttings (A–C) measuring 5m by 3m were opened, with C inside the church and B and A on the platform. Cutting C revealed no remaining internal features associated with the church. Cutting B straddled the platform’s eastern perimeter wall and exposed a substantial layer of rubble inside the wall, including several stone architectural fragments, many of which are heavily decorated in the Romanesque style. This rubble layer sealed at least two levels of burials (151 individuals), orientated east–west, and included women, children and men. Two 13th/14th-century silver pennies and a similarly dated bronze dress pin were associated with the upper level of burials. This cutting was extended towards the centre of the platform, revealing a similar layer of rubble.

Cutting A extended across the ditch and the perimeter wall at the platform’s north-west corner. The wall was of drystone construction, 1.5m wide, with only the bottom one to two courses remaining in situ. The ditch, too narrow to be truly defensive (2m wide by 0.8m deep), cut an earlier ditch that contained the remains of at least three very robust humans, only partially revealed within the cutting. A well-made flint barbed and tanged arrowhead and other lithics were found within this earlier ditch. This is in addition to numerous other pieces of flint and chert debitage from many different contexts across the site and two possible saddle querns within the rubble layer.

Excavations will resume in 2006 and will include further excavation on the platform and an investigation of some of the potential features identified through the geophysical surveying.