A day-by-day account of the activities of the Rossnaree Archaeological Project 2010-11

Day 14 – A ‘soft’ day.

Today the weather started out dry but quite grey and overcast. As soon as we got to the site, a persistent drizzle had started and with very little wind, it seemed that this would be ‘down for the day’. Unfortunately, our predictions weren’t wrong and if it wasn’t actually raining all the time, we were certainly damp. This meant that the day was a bit ‘stop-start’ as we took an early break in the morning, returning to the cabin for a change rather than having the break on-site.

The grave cut with bone in situ.

There was also a bit of procedure to be seen to following the confirmation of the finding of the burial and grave cut. Legally, the site director is obliged to inform the National Monuments Service and the National Museum of Ireland of the discovery of human remains on site. Additionally, the local gardaí (police) must be informed under the Coroner’s Act and the National Monuments Acts. This is required because of the possibility that the human remains identified might be the burial place of a recent murder victim. When human remains are found on archaeological sites it is usually perfectly clear that the remains are ancient but nonetheless, it is a requirement to inform the Gardaí. All the relevant notifications were made this morning. While a representative of the National Monuments Service will be visiting the site over the next few days the local Gardaí came to inspect the site immediately and within an hour they had come to check out the site and make sure the correct procedures are being followed. Despite the very damp conditions, they came right down to the site where we gave them a quick tour and explained why we believe the burial is ancient. It is laid out in the standard way for early medieval burials, an extended inhumation in a grave cut oriented west-east and the body is not accompanied by any grave goods. Furthermore, the cut lies stratigraphically below the very base of ploughsoil, a layer which was not disturbed any time recently as it does not contain any more modern artefats like glazed ceramics or modern iron objects. The orientation with the head to the west and feet to the east is typical of Christian burials of the period so it is definitely not prehistoric and it seems to fit well with some of the artefacts previously recovered from the site like the comb fragment and jet bracelet fragment from last year and the blue glass beads from this year. Some time later, a Garda photographer came down to the site to record the scene and we gave him a quick tour as well. This was one of the more unusual jobs he had been on recently.

Matt excavating the grave.
A slightly damp Darren.

Turning back to the work we managed to get done today between the showers, Matt continued to clean up around the grave cut in preparation for a photograph while Darren and Lisa gave parts of Cutting 7 a close trowel, establishing the edges of some of the features previously identified.

Mags and Sophie very patiently continued to trowel down the surface of Cutting 8 and and the one possible benefit of the wet conditions was that we were able to see soil colours more clearly than usual. It was much easier to identify the undisturbed natural which was clearly visible as a compact yellowish soil while the covering layers, base of ploughsoil was definitely a darker brown. There was some reeorking of part of the area as soon as this was realised but it seems that we are very close to the bottom of this cutting.

Damp Eimear and Ciara in Area 1.

The test section in Cutting 6 .

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In Cutting 6 (Area 1) Eimear, assisted by Ciara, took levels on the plan and then continued the section started by Igor yesterday. The deposit there was very interesting giving way after just a couple of cm to a very pale grey ashy material with very frequent large chunks of charcoal. Within this fill there are several large pieces of cattle bone including a mandible. There still seems to be a goodbit of work to be done in this cutting. Hopefully we will manage it before the end of next week. The weather is meant to be better which would help. Later on in the afternoon we had more excitement when some of the crew from the Bective excavation came to have a look at the site. It is a pity it wasn’t a better day as the place wasn’t looking as stunning as it usually does. Maybe next time!

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