2009:625 - ROUND HOUSE 2, SLIEVEMORE, Mayo

County: Mayo Site name: ROUND HOUSE 2, SLIEVEMORE

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 09E0301

Author: Teresa Bolger, c/o Achill Archaeological Field School, Dooagh, Achill Island, Co. Mayo, and Stuart Rathbone, 124 Forest Park, Drogheda, Co. Louth.

Site type: Bronze Age structure

ITM: E 465012m, N 808593m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.008889, -10.059444

Round house 2 is one of a pair of large prehistoric round houses situated about 50m apart on the southern side of Slievemore Mountain, Achill Island. The buildings are located on steeply sloping ground just below the 120m contour line, and are reached after a short but steep climb from the well-known deserted village. The buildings are situated within an extensive pre-bog field system that consists of long linear fields that run north to south down the slope of the mountain. Round house 1 was extensively excavated by Achill Field School between 2006 and 2008 and found to be a Middle Bronze Age round house defined by a massive drystone wall and entered through a complex elongated entrance at the east.

The site of Round house 2 extends over an area measuring c. 17m (north–south) by 15m. Four trenches were excavated at the site during the course of this investigation. The trenches were laid out in a cruciform pattern on a roughly north–south axis.

Trench 1 was positioned to examine the northern wall and the interior of the building. It revealed a massively constructed wall measuring 3m in width and surviving to a height of up to 0.9m. The exterior face of the wall consisted of two very large upright boulders, whilst the internal wall face consisted of six neatly laid courses of medium-sized boulders. A rubble core was retained by the two wall faces. Within the interior there was a centrally located hearth and a series of small post-holes. A curvilinear feature apparently surrounding the hearth may have formed a foundation for a timber wall or may have acted as a drain. The interior of the building was covered in a deliberate deposit of clay and stones and this was partially removed, revealing a single large post-hole located close to the wall.

Trench 2 was positioned at the east of the building to examine the entrance. The entrance was defined by upright stone slabs along the north and by coursed stone along the south. It measured 3.65m in length and varied in width between 0.9m at the west and 1.5m at the east. The base of the entrance was covered by a rough paving and below this there was a deposit of clay and stone identical to that discovered in Trench 1. When a portion of this was removed at the east of the trench a much more substantial paving consisting of large angular stone slabs was revealed.

Trench 3 was positioned to examine the southern wall of the round house and a small portion of the interior. The wall here was over 2.5m wide and stood to a minimum height of 0.85m. It was constructed in a different manner to the northern wall and appeared to consist of well-coursed stone without a separate rubble core. Beneath the wall collapse to the south of the wall there were a series of stones that seemed to be more carefully arranged and which may have represented a secondary addition to the wall, possibly built to reinforce it. To the south of this wall there was an extensive platform of stone extending from the edge of the wall beyond the limits of the trench. Probing of the unexcavated area suggested that this platform is likely to extend from the wall for a minimum distance of 3m. The purpose of this platform was not clear; it may have been built to reinforce the foundations of the wall but it may have also been built to provide a level activity area to the south of the building. A similar platform was recorded to the north of Round house 1, although it was not as extensive and utilised smaller stones. Within the interior of the building occupation deposits were reached but were not fully excavated due to water logging. A single post-hole was excavated close to the internal face of the wall.

Trench 4 was positioned to examine the western wall, which was constructed in a similar manner to the northern wall, with internal and external faces of well-coursed stone retaining a core of smaller stone. The wall in this area was 2.25m wide and survived to a minimum height of 0.8m. The wall was adjoined by an east–west-aligned field wall consisting of large upright boulders, the tips of which were visible protruding through the bog prior to excavation. This wall forms a cross wall between two of the larger north–south-aligned field walls and is the first direct evidence that indicates that the round houses and the field systems were in use contemporaneously.

Finds from the excavation were, as with Round house 1, limited, and consisted mainly of small pieces of flint debitage (though at least one blade and one scraper do appear to be present within the assemblage) and three possible hammerstones, including one made from a quartz beach pebble that was deposited into one of the central post-holes. A deposit of sticky red clay from the interior has been identified as very badly degraded pottery. A large assemblage of pieces of angular quartz was recovered from across the site and this is currently under specialist examination in order to determine whether it is of an artefactual nature. Charcoal samples from the central hearth and several other locations are currently being processed to provide accurate dating.