2006:1486 - Ardbraccan 1, Meath

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Meath Site name: Ardbraccan 1

Sites and Monuments Record No.: - Licence number: A023/023, E3115

Author: Matt Mossop, Archaeological Consultancy Ltd, Goodagrane Farmhouse, Halvasso, Nr Mabe, Cornwall, UK, TR10 9BX, for Archaeological Consultancy Services

Site type: Burnt mound, burnt spread, field system


ITM: E 682914m, N 766777m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.644205, -6.746008

This site was located within Contract 3 (Navan bypass) of the proposed M3 Clonee to north of Kells motorway and was identified during advance testing by Neil Fairburn during May 2004 (Excavations 2004, No. 1158, 04E0584). Full resolution of two trenches occurred between July and August 2006.
Trench 1 consisted of a two-phased burnt mound; each phase had evidence for a central figure-of-eight-shaped hearth and a trough complex. The burnt mound was situated at the eastern edge of a boggy area now used as pasture.
Phase 1 was represented by a central trough complex, a shallow bowl-shaped pit, two small pits/post-holes and a c. 2.2m-long slot-trench. A shallow, bowl-shaped hearth (c. 1.4m diameter) lay upslope and immediately beside a vertical-sided circular trough (c. 1.6m diameter). The trough had apparently been successively deepened, perhaps to pursue a lowering water table until it was impracticable to continue. Downslope, a sizeable tree bole had been expanded to form a large sub-oval sump (10m by 5m by 1.2m). This provided water for the trough, which was partly infilled. A well-worn, metalled trackway, averaging 2m wide, connected these features and contoured for c. 15m just above the boggy ground to the east. A 12.5m by 9m burnt stone spread was found to be up to 0.2m thick and was located downslope of, and sealing, the trough.
Phase 2 comprised a central trough complex, located immediately beside the sump of Phase 1, and an additional hearth. Two successive wells apparently replaced the sump as it silted up. One of these wells, together with the sump, included quantities of animal bone as well as one substantial timber. A second burnt-stone spread sealed the Phase 1 sump and was situated downslope of the Phase 2 trough. A later (perhaps medieval/early post-medieval) field system cut the burnt mounds and is not depicted on the first-edition OS map (1836).
The small Trench 2 was located 200m to the south-east of Trench 1 and centred on a thin burnt-stone spread surrounding a shallow bowl-shaped pit c. 1.4m in diameter. A pair of substantial ditches, the fills of which consisted of alternating layers of grey clay and dark-brown silt containing hazelnuts, are likely to post-date the burnt stone spread and may be part of an extensive, early medieval field system recorded at Ardbraccan 2 (see No. 1487 below, A023/024).
In advance of radiocarbon/dendrochronological dating, it seems likely that the burnt mounds and spreads are prehistoric, although they may be later. Both phases of burnt mound (Trench 1) appear to be associated with butchery, meat processing or feasting, or a combination of these, although additional/
alternative functions should not be ruled out. The scale of the sump, wells and metalled surface suggests a very considerable investment of resources, although the surviving burnt-stone material does not reflect above average usage. It may be that the sump and wells provided water for farm animals or for a nearby population.