ME02747 - JOHNSTOWN - Enclosure

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Situated on a low rise in a fairly level landscape with lower ground to the W and S. It was identified in the course of preparations for the M4 motorway when it was apparent as a slightly raised subcircular area known locally as Scaruppa that was thought to be a childrens’ burial ground. There was a straight bank (Wth 3m; L 30m) on the E side. A geophysical survey identified a large double-ditched enclosure (ext. diam. c. 60m) and other features. Archaeological testing (02E0100) confirmed the results of the geophysical report and demonstrated the presence of archaeological features inside and outside the enclosure. It recovered a furnace bottom and three inhumations as well as identifying the major enclosing features. As the enclosure lay at a crucial junction of the motorway route total excavation under another licence (02E0462) was necessary and was conducted between April and October 2002. (Clarke 2004; 2004a; Clarke and Carlin 2008) Several phases in the development of the enclosure were identified. The earliest was a large enclosure (diam. c. 60m) defined by a slight fosse (max. Wth 2m; max. D 0.8m) with an entrance (Wth 3.2m) at N. This ditch was cut by the enclosure ditch of the second phase, creating a circular enclosure (int. diam. 54m x 53m), and much of the Phase 1 ditch was re-cut on its original line in Phase 3. The Phase 2 ditch was U-shaped (max. Wth 2.5m; max. D 1.1m) and had entrances at N (Wth 1.4m) and SE (Wth 3.4m). The Phase 3 enclosure was D-shaped (max. ext. dims 61m NE-SW; 47.5m NW-SE) with a larger U-shaped ditch (max. Wth 5.3m; max. D 1.8m), and while no entrance was identified the ditch was shallowest at NE where the entrance may have been. Earthen banks did not survive, but would have existed on the inner side of the fosses as post-medieval cultivation ridges avoid the areas they would have occupied as well as the burial area. The Phase 1 ditch silted up rapidly and a radiocarbon date of Cal. AD 430-660 has been returned from its base, which is the same as the earliest date of Cal. AD 440-760 from the start of the Phase 2 ditch. This ditch was silted up by the end of the ninth century as two radiocarbon determinations of Cal. AD 670-960 and 659-890 from deposits sealing it testify. Closure of the Phase 2 ditch initiated the digging of the Phase 3 fosse and a burial from the centre of its fill has a C14 date of Cal. AD 990-1225 while animal bone from the top of the fill has a date of Cal. AD 1420-1650. Large quantities of animal bones dominated by those of cattle, pig and sheep/goat, which is typical of the food debris that accumulates in the fosses of raths, were recovered from this ditch. This suggests that there was occupation in the interior, but no structures are evident. The presence of cereal-drying kilns (ME048-031006-) in the vicinity further testifies to habitation. Artefacts recovered from Phases 1 and 2 include sherds of Souterrain ware, a socketed iron arrowhead, a smith’s hammerhead and a penannular ring-pin with scroll terminals. The Phase 3 fosse produced Souterrain ware as well as high medieval glazed wares, knives, nails, and a ring-pin testifying to continued use into the fifteenth century. From the beginning the enclosure was used as an early medieval burial ground (ME048-031002-), and it continued to be used for burial up to pre-Famine times. The childrens’ burial ground (ME048-031003-) was at the straight earthen bank that was originally visible at the location and is associated with a mill-race, the wheel-pit (ME048-0031005-) of which was excavated. Copious amounts of iron slag and a working floor that sealed the Phase 3 ditch indicates an important meatal-working site (ME048-031004-). (Clarke and Carlin 2008, 55-9) Compiled by: Michael Moore Date of upload: 14 August 2019

Description Source: Department of Housing, Local Government & Heritage

Monument Details

53.4086, -6.84487

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