2011:504 - COOLAHA, Monaghan

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Monaghan Site name: COOLAHA

Sites and Monuments Record No.: MO031-113 Licence number: 11E0414

Author: Kieran Campbell

Site type: Cropmark of enclosure

ITM: E 687632m, N 802592m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.965187, -6.664489

A series of test trenches was excavated on 7 November 2011 as part of an Archaeological Impact Assessment undertaken in advance of an application to Monaghan County Council for planning permission for a dwelling house at Coolaha, Carrickmacross. The development site is immediately adjacent to MO031-113, a large enclosure identified by a cropmark in an aerial photograph from the Cambridge University Collection of Air Photos (CUCAP BDQ 58). The monument is also visible as a cropmark on the OS 1995 black-and-white aerial photographic survey (www.osi.ie). No. 504. Coolaha: aerial photograph of cropmark taken on 17 July 1970 (CUCAP BDQ 58). Image obtained with thanks from the Photographic Unit, Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht. Copyright reserved Cambridge University Collection of Aerial Photography.

The enclosure is on level ground towards the centre of a large pasture field overlooked by a number of low grassy knolls to the east and north. There is nothing visible on the ground surface to suggest the presence of an enclosure. There are surrounding drumlins to the north, east and south, with more extensive views to the west over low-lying ground towards the Longfield River c. 0.5km distant.
Test trenches, using a 1.84m-wide (6ft) grading bucket, were excavated on two potential sites for the proposed new house, ‘Plan A’ and ‘Plan B’, north of the enclosure, and on the site of the cropmark enclosure to ascertain its location and extent. A composite image of the OS 1.2500 map and OSI 1995 aerial photograph with the outline of the enclosure was prepared by CS Pringle Consulting Engineers. Construction Consultancy Services (CCS) carried out a topographical survey of the field on the day of the testing and pegged the line of the enclosure at the north, south, east and west sides.
Test Trenches 1–3, total length 123m, excavated on the potential house sites, generally uncovered subsoil of stony clay. Subsoil in Trench 3 was more variable, consisting of undulating bluish-grey marl with pockets of peaty topsoil in hollows. Land reclamation is the likely cause of this variation in subsoil. The OS 1st-edition six-inch map surveyed in 1835 shows cottages, outbuildings and eight small fields associated with the cottages at this side of the field.
The Recorded Monument was uncovered as an enclosure defined by a ditch 1.6–1.8m wide on the north and south sides (Trenches 4 and 6) and by the probable base of a stone bank, possibly with a very shallow external ditch, on the east side (Trench 5). The external diameter of the enclosure, as found in Trenches 4 and 6, was established at 72m (north-north-east/south-south-west). The east–west diameter was not established by excavation, as no trench was excavated on the western circuit, but the distance as measured between the surveyors’ pegs was 55m. No dating evidence was recovered during the testing, which was limited to exposing the surface of the archaeological material, and no excavation was undertaken of the ditches and stone bank uncovered. No archaeological material was noted in the test trenches excavated up to 14m into the interior of the enclosure. The enclosure possibly dates from the Early Christian/early medieval period, although its large size suggests that it is not a standard ringfort.

6 St Ultan’s, Laytown, Co. Meath.