NMI Burial Excavation Records


Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: AE/10/205

Author: Warren Bailie and Peter Bowen

Site type: Bronze Age settlement and fulachta fiadh

ITM: E 739027m, N 886494m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.707305, -5.842619

The proposed development is located adjacent to the Trooperslane Industrial Estate to the south-west of Carrickfergus. It consists of an irregularly shaped area of ground bounded to the south-west by the Trooperslane Road, to the north-west by the current industrial estate, to the north-east by Carrickfergus Enterprise Agency and to the south-east by housing.

There are five recorded archaeological sites within a 1km radius of the proposed development, the closest of which is a souterrain (ANT052-033) approximately 190m to the north-west in a large rectangular field. Archaeological investigations of the adjacent Trooperslane Industrial Park by Cia McConway of ADS Ltd in 2000/2001 uncovered evidence of an occupation site dating from the Bronze Age (Excavations 2000, no. 22, AE/00/62). This comprised a circular house surrounded by an enclosure.

The total area incorporated within the site measured approximately 300m by 170m, tapering towards the south-western end of the site. During the topsoil strip it became apparent that a deposit of greyish-brown clay underlay the topsoil across most of the development site. On the slight slopes to the east of the site archaeological deposits were uncovered which were seen to extend below this redeposited clay layer. The clay layer also covered 20th-century drainage features, suggesting that it had been imported to the site in the relatively recent past.

The topsoil and clay redeposit removal revealed extensive archaeological deposits across most of the site. The site was divided into three fields, numbered 1–3.


Field 1

This area measured approximately 80m by 130m. The archaeological deposits consisted of extensive remains of prehistoric settlement activity, including structural remains, pits and curvilinear features situated on the fringes of a former stream.

The remains of three fulachta fiadh were uncovered within this field, all situated on successive meanders along the line of a former stream. These comprised a series of spreads of burnt, heat-fractured stones with associated pits, including troughs. Evidence that these troughs had once been wood-lined was also uncovered in the form of heavily degraded lining timbers and stake-holes. At one of the fulachta fiadh an amber bead was found associated with a trough.

Structural remains were also uncovered, consisting of a large oval structure and a smaller circular structure. The larger structure measured 7m east–west by 6m and was defined by a series of ten outer posts, 3m apart. Within the structure was a series of posts, probably internal roof supports, and a number of pits. The second identifiable structure was approximately 4m in diameter, with an opening or possible entrance to the north-west. Forming the outer wall were six posts, generally 2m apart. Again a small number of posts and pits were found within the structure.

Very little artefactual evidence, other than struck flint, was recovered from the structures, although they are believed to be of Bronze Age origin.


Field 2

This area measured approximately 80m by 190m. Across much of Field 2 there was a general pattern of scattered features, mainly pits, though an enclosure, a penannular ditch and the remains of at least two fulachta fiadh were excavated. Widespread alluvial deposits and palaeochannels were also noted, concentrated in, though not restricted to, the south-western corner of the field.

Located at the west was a large, semicircular enclosure, 20m east–west by 17m internally, defined by two ditches, which formed the northern, eastern and western edges. These ditches were up to 1.5m wide though were generally shallow, no more than 1m in depth. There was no evidence of any enclosing elements on the south or south-east, though the damp waterlogged nature of the ground along this side of the site, indicated by the traces of several streams/palaeochannels and numerous alluvial deposits, may have acted as a de facto natural barrier at this point.

Within the area of the enclosure there were numerous features, including pits, posts and three curving gullies marking probable windbreaks. There was also evidence for pre-enclosure activity in the form of several features that had been truncated when the enclosing ditches were first dug, and these in turn had been disturbed by later activity. When viewed as a whole, it is apparent that the archaeological remains recorded, both within the enclosure and in the immediate vicinity, represent long-term and possibly multi-period activity in this general area. There was very little artefactual evidence to date the enclosure, though some Beaker pottery, recovered from a dump of material within the alluvium to the south, could hint at an early Bronze Age date.

To the north-east of the enclosure in Field 2 was a large penannular ring-ditch, which enclosed a circular area measuring 10m in diameter internally. A 2m-wide gap within the penannular ditch at the east, formed by a causeway of undug subsoil, indicated the location of an entrance. In width the ditch measured between 0.3m and 0.62m, while its depth ranged from as little as 0.08m to as much as 0.4m. Within the area enclosed by the ring-ditch there were a small number of features, concentrated at the east; these, however, are unlikely to have been directly related to the ring-ditch and were more probably associated with features just beyond it. No other features were found within the ring-ditch.

Two fulachta fiadh were also uncovered within Field 2, again adjacent to a former stream and characterised by small spreads of burnt stones. At both sites there were a series of troughs, some recut, indicating multiple periods of use. At one, evidence for water management was uncovered in the form of two channels dug to drain water from the troughs. There was also some evidence that the troughs had been wood-lined, with the discovery of some degraded wood and stake-holes in the bases.

Scattered throughout the remainder of Field 2 were a large number of pits, ranging from as little as 0.3m across to over 3m. None of these were found in association with any structural evidence, although the larger pits were probably for the extraction of clay, perhaps for use in structures.


Field 3

This area measured approximately 70m by 130m. The features uncovered in this field consisted of a former streambed with flint artefacts found on and around its extent, an isolated pit and a fulacht fiadh with a trough.

Artefacts were recovered from numerous features across the site. These included the amber bead, a miniature polished stone axehead, numerous struck flints and pottery, with Beaker Ware and general Bronze Age pottery present. In general the artefacts hint at extensive prehistoric activity occurring across the site, with the zenith likely to be of early Bronze Age date.

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