2017:298 - Curragh Racecourse, Kildare

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Kildare Site name: Curragh Racecourse

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 17E0059

Author: Ros Ó Maoldúin

Site type: Iron Age metalworking and ring ditch


ITM: E 677382m, N 713783m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.168898, -6.842655

Monitoring and test trenching was conducted by AMS Ltd, on behalf of Curragh Racecourse Ltd, in advance of the racecourse’s redevelopment. Nothing of archaeological potential was revealed during monitoring. However, several features were encountered during the test trenching. The test trenching was in two greenfield sites, adjacent the racecourse, where it is proposed to construct a wastewater treatment plant.

A total of sixteen test trenches were excavated (Figure 1). The Loughbrown/Curragh townland boundary, a previously unknown ring-ditch and several pits and gullies were uncovered. Two pits (C405 & C408) and two gully-like linear features (C406 & C407) were discovered close to the southern end of Trench 4 (Figures 2, 3 & 4). Pit C405 was located south-west of the two gully-like linear features (C406 & C407), positioned centrally along the axis between them. It was subcircular in plan, c.1.2m in diameter and had gradually sloping sides that break to a broad, U-shaped base. It was filled by a dark-brown silty clay (C402), with frequent charcoal inclusions 0.2m deep.

The two linear features (C406 & C407) ran north-east/south-west and were both arced slightly toward one another. The north-western linear feature (C406) was 4.5m long, 0.6m wide and 0.23m deep, while the south-eastern one (C407) was 3m long, 0.4m wide and 0.26m deep. They both had steep to vertical sides that broke sharply to flat bases and were filled by dark-brown silty clay containing frequent flecks of charcoal, occasional pieces of burnt sandstone, C403 and C404, respectively. Some possible slag (waste product from metalworking) and flecks of burnt bone were also recovered. A sample of the Willow from C404 returned a calibrated radiocarbon date of 160BC to AD30 (2 Sigma/95.4% probability).

The second pit (C408) was a large circular feature, just over 2m in diameter and 0.45m deep. It had a steeply sloping western side and a gently sloping eastern side, that broke gradually to an irregular but generally concave base, and contained four fills: C409, C410, C411 & C412. In the western side of the cut, a deposit of flattish stones with rounded edges (C412), averaging 0.25m in diameter, covered an area 0.58m east–west by 0.62m. This was overlain by mottled dark-grey/brown silty clay with frequent pieces of degraded stone and occasional flecks of charcoal (C409), c.0.42m deep. The eastern side of the cut was filled with a light-brown clayey silt (C411), containing frequent flecks of charcoal and burnt stone, c.0.35m deep. These were all overlain by a mixed layer of redeposited natural orangey-brown clay 0.3m deep.

More possible slag and a possibly worked stone were recovered from C409 and several soil samples were retrieved. The samples have been floated and wet-sieved and charcoal has been sent for analysis. We are awaiting the results and will submit a sample for radiocarbon dating once received. The slag has also been sent for analyses and we also await those results.

The ditch that once served as the boundary between the Curragh and Loughbrown townlands (C2) was uncovered near the south-south-western end of Trench 14 (Figures 5 & 6). It was sealed by a layer of tarmacadam and lined by concrete bollards. The ditch (C2) was 3.85m wide, a maximum of 0.94m deep and had moderately sloping sides that broke gently to a concave base. The basal fill (C7) was light yellowish-brown, flecked orange, clay c.0.85m wide and 0.05m deep. This was overlain by C6, 0.1m of dark-grey clay containing frequent flecks of charcoal and occasional flecks of wood. This was overlain by C5, c.0.32m of light-brown silty clay containing occasional flecks of charcoal. The upper fill of the ditch, C4, was indistinguishable from the subsoil/lower b-horizon topsoil found elsewhere in the trench. This was sealed by a layer of modern tarmacadam, C3, only 0.02m deep. Two glass bottle bases (F3 & F4), of probable 19th-century date, were retrieved from C4 and C5.

A ring-ditch was partially uncovered near the south-eastern end of Trench 16 (Figures 7-10). The exposed element, approximately one third of the monument, was excavated. The remainder of the monument will not be impacted upon. The cut, C8, had moderate to steeply sloping sides which broke gradually to a concave base. The outer side was slightly steeper than the inner and the ditch was deepest in the south-east. It contained two fills. The basal fill, C14, was moderately compact light yellowish-brown, with greyish orange patches, silty clay, containing occasional flecks of charcoal, c.0.26m deep. It was notably sorted and more consistently grey toward the base in the deepest parts of the ditch. It appeared predominantly derived from the external side of the ditch, perhaps suggesting a low external bank. The upper fill, C9, was moderately compact dark-greyish/brown clayey silt containing frequent flecks of charcoal and occasional burnt stone.

Two iron finds were retrieved from C9, F7 & F8. F7 was a small lump of corrosion that may or may not contain an iron artefact. F8 was a definite artefact. It was lozenge shaped and approximately 0.07m in length. Both objects have been x-rayed and are awaiting cleaning by the conservator. Soil samples from both C9 and C14 were flotted and wet sieved and the charcoal has been sent for analyses. Once complete, suitable samples will be selected for radiocarbon dating.

Three north–south aligned linear features (C10, C12 & C15), spaced c.2m to 2.5m apart, traversed the trench around the ring-ditch. These were very shallow and ephemeral, and it is possible that they did not survive, or were not noticed, elsewhere. They were all c.0.5m wide and 0.02m deep and filled by light-greyish/brown silty clay containing occasional flecks of charcoal and burnt stone (C11, C13 & C16 respectively). These probably represent medieval/post-medieval or early modern cultivation ridges.

Laghtagoona House, Gort Road, Corofin, Co. Clare