2010:505 - Slievemore, Achill Island, Mayo

County: Mayo Site name: Slievemore, Achill Island

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 10E0281

Author: Stuart Rathbone, Achill Field School, Dooagh, Achill Island, Co. Mayo.

Site type: Hut site

ITM: E 462866m, N 807527m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.998753, -10.091689

Excavation of a small stone-built subcircular-shaped structure took place here for eight weeks in July and August of 2010 as part of a research and training project by Achill Field School. The site is located on what is suspected to be a large artificial terrace on the southern side of Slievemore, Achill Island, and is 108m south-east of the large middle Bronze Age Round house 1 excavated by Simon Ó Faoláin, Ros Ó Maoldúin and Stuart Rathbone of Achill Field School between 2006 and 2008 (Excavations 2006, No. 1471, 06E0428; Excavations 2007, No. 1246, 07E0191; Excavations 2008, No. 928, 08E0578). Prior to excavation the site was visible as a low ring of heather-covered stones protruding through blanket bog. A second almost identical ring is visible some 16m to the south and there are suggestions that other similar structures are located on the terrace that are less clearly defined. A 7m by 6m trench was excavated and overlying peat deposits and selected archaeological deposits were removed.

Removal of the overlying peat revealed a surprisingly large foundation, demonstrating that what was visible prior to the excavation was only the internal edge of a sloping wall. The building’s long axis was aligned west-north-west to east-south-east and had a maximum length of 4.6m. The internal area was small, with a maximum length of 2.6m from west-north-west to east-south-east. The interior was devoid of post-holes or any features indicative of a timber superstructure but a small hearth and a small pit were identified near the south-west and north-east perimeters respectively. No direct evidence of a roof was forthcoming but, given the width of the walls in comparison to the diameter of the building, it does seem likely that it was at some point covered over and that the weight of the roof was supported by the walls. Whilst no obvious entrance was identified, a pavement consisting of large flat stone slabs led from the western corner of the excavation right up to the western wall. At this point on the internal wall face there is a distinct change in the manner of the construction and it is thought this may represent an entrance to the building which was blocked during an extensive period of secondary use. This secondary use was represented by a thick charcoal-rich build-up of soil within the building and around the southern exterior covering over the lower levels of wall collapse. A large assemblage of quartz fragments was recovered from this material and preliminary analysis indicates that this material has been deliberately smashed and has not been deposited by a natural process.

South of the building there were several features including a field wall, several areas of laid stone and a deposit of peat ash, which indicate a complex sequence of building took place in this area over a prolonged period. Further excavation will be needed to determine the true nature and scale of this activity, but it is clear that some of this is associated with the secondary occupation of the site.

In 2011, it is intended to extend this excavation far enough to incorporate the definite structure to the south and several of the possible structures in the intervening area.