2016:345 - Keel East, Achill Island, Mayo

County: Mayo Site name: Keel East, Achill Island

Sites and Monuments Record No.: MA042-021002 Licence number: 14E0109

Author: Stuart Rathbone

Site type: Bronze Age building and post-medieval huts

ITM: E 463611m, N 805439m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.980200, -10.079400

During May and June 2016 a third season of work was undertaken at the site of the Cromlech Tumulus (MA042-021002) and the Danish Ditch pre-bog field wall (MA042-021003). Work in 2014 and 2015 had completed four large trenches over the western side of the Cromlech Tumulus site, showing it to be a large Middle Bronze Age building overlain by a number of much smaller late medieval and post-medieval buildings. Two narrow trenches had also been excavated over the Danish Ditch pre-bog field wall establishing it to be a reasonably narrow field wall that survived to no great height.

During 2016 work at the Cromlech Tumulus site concentrated on a single large trench, Quadrant 5, which was excavated over the eastern part of the site, and measured 10m by 5.5m. This area of the site contained the only standing building remains, a small section of a dry stone hut with a portion of a corbelled roof that was still intact. Dating this building and determining its function was one of the main goals of the season's work. Another main goal was to identify the eastern wall of the large Middle Bronze Age building. It was also suspected that the Danish Ditch pre-bog field wall connected to the Cromlech Tumulus site in this area and a third goal was therefore to identify and record this feature.

Removal of the turf and overlying peat deposits revealed a dense spread of soil and small and medium size stones, overlain by a number of small slab-like boulders which are thought to have resulted from the collapse of the roof of the stone-walled hut. A substantial area of rubble was located immediately east and south of the stone-walled hut, which is thought to have derived from the collapse of the walls of the eastern end of the structure. The interior of the small stone hut was cleared of rubble revealing a simple earth floor with a small hearth close to the western end of the building. The building was found to have been very small with dimensions of just 2.8m east-west by 2.4m. It is suspected to be either a small post-medieval booley house or other type of simple shelter.

The walls of the Middle Bronze Age building were identified along the eastern side of the northern part of the trench, as had been expected. However an unexpected discovery was a long curving entrance passage that was lined with stone but unpaved, and which ran for over 5m across the northern end of the trench.

The pre-bog field wall was identified coming into the middle of the trench from the east. It had a width of 1.4m and five courses of stonework survived in situ. An exploratory cutting was made through the deposit of soil and stone that covered the trench and this was found to be up to 0.7m deep and to conceal a substantial stone wall that may be part of a small circular building built against the southern side of the entrance of the Middle Bronze Age building; this wall overlay a large stone-filled pit of currently unknown date and purpose.

Work on the site during 2017 will concentrate on removing the rest of this soil and stone deposit and examining any other features it conceals.

A trench measuring 10m by 2m was excavated over the Danish Ditch pre-bog field wall. Unexpectedly it revealed a pair of parallel east-west aligned field walls separated by a 4.5m wide terrace. It therefore appears that the Danish Ditch may actually be a formally laid out road, potentially making this is a very important finding. In the centre of the terrace a stone-built oval hearth was discovered, separating the road into two channels and potentially indicating that the road could be illuminated at night.

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