ME02748 - JOHNSTOWN - Burial ground

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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) From the beginning the enclosure (ME048-031001-) was used for burial. The earliest burials were probably under a mound (dims 18.5m x 15.5m) at the centre of what was probably the first and second phases of the enclosure, although it had no ditch and did not survive as such. The Phase 2 enclosure coincided in large part with the footprint of the earlier enclosure and represents the principal period of use of the burial ground. The Phase 3 enclosure ditch was largely outside that of Phase 2 but, while it excluded a northern arc of the original enclosure, it also extended further E. As burial had always extended from the centre into the E quadrant it allowed burial to extend over the silted Phase 2 fosse. The 398 burials associated with the three phases of the enclosure were laid supine, and over half were generally aligned W-E in the Christian fashion. They were in simple grave-cuts and might have been wrapped in shrouds but there were no shroud pins or grave-goods. Only nine burials, in two small groups dating from the seventh to tenth centuries, had some edging of small stones. The inhumations consisted of 69 adult males, 71 adult females, 41 unsexed adults, 111 juveniles and 88 infants. Three infants had ear-muffs - stones at either side of the head - but there was only one pillow stone. There were four double-burials, three of them juveniles. Of the fifty burials or so within the area of the mound three disarticulated and fragmentary bodies within a single ‘charnel pit’ have the earliest radiocarbon dating of Cal. AD 370-640, and constitute a foundation burial dating from the end of the Early Iron Age. Some others within the mound area produced dates ranging up to the tenth century, and most of the burials in seven rows within the mound area probably date to this period. Grave-markers were probably provided for all the burials but as there are few stratigraphic relationships radiocarbon determinations provide the only fixed dating for some individuals and groups. The other burials within the enclosure are E and SE of the mound and are generally dated by radiocarbon in the later first millennium and into the first half of the second. The focus could shift periodically from SE of the mound to NE of it with groups of adjacent burials having similar dates. Only one burial within the enclosure, which was inserted into the Phase 2 entrance at SE, had a post-medieval date of Cal. AD 1500-1650 and may have signified a deliberate closing of the burial ground. However, the 53 burials from the topsoil and the silted fosses are probably all from the post-medieval period. (Clarke and Carlin 2008, 59-62, 66-70) Compiled by: Michael Moore Date of upload: 14 August 2019

Description Source: National Monuments Service, Department of Arts, Heritage Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.

Monument Details

Address:
JOHNSTOWN, Meath
GPS:
53.4085, -6.84484
SMRS:
ME048-031002-
what3words:
diversions.whisks.nourishing

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