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


Archaeological excavation of a prehistoric site and early medieval enclosure at Rossnaree, Co. Meath, Ireland.

Conor Brady, Department of Humanities, Dundalk Institute of Technology.

The Rossnaree Enclosure,

Brú na Bóinne, Co. Meath

Rossnaree Enclosure site and River Boyne
Aerial view of the site of the Rossnaree Enclosure, Brú na Bóinne, Co. Meath. The site is in the stubble field in the middle of the picture. The enclosure at the bottom is a smaller Early Medieval site.

The first season of this archaeological excavation took place during July 2010 at Rossnaree, Co. Meath, within the buffer zone of the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site
, an internationally known archaeological landscape because of its many Neolithic passage tombs and other monuments. The excavation was designed to assess the archaeological potential of and establish a date for geophysical anomalies and surface features which indicate the presence of a large multi-vallate enclosure measuring c.110m N-S by at least 160m E-W at Rossnaree, Co. Meath. While the passage tombs are located on the northern side of the River Boyne, the Rossnaree site is located on the southern side of the river, at a highly significant location within the Brú na Bóinne complex. It marks the point at which the river begins to delineate the famous ‘bend’ of Brú na Bóinne and is located directly to the SW and across the River Boyne from the Knowth passage tomb complex. It sits on a low knoll on the first gravel terrace above the river.

The site was first discovered as a large, dense scatter of worked lithics (chipped stone artefacts, peimarily flint) in the NE corner of a tillage field. The lithics suggested intensive activity, possibly involving residential settlement, broadly dating to the Neolithic (4,000-2,500 cal BC). Multi-method geophysical and topographical survey funded by the
Heritage Council subsequently revealed the presence of the enclosure which has a complex set of internal features and is likely to be multi-phase.

Layers of archaeological survey data, Rossnaree Enclosure, Brú na Bóinne, Co. Meath

Animal bone was also recovered from the field surface as well as a human tooth which suggests possible ceremonial or funerary activity at the site. There is also a greywacke slab exposed on the surface of the adjacent field which will be investigated further during the excavation. Greywacke was used particularly as the structural stones in the passage tombs built on the N side of the river. Recent geological work on the structural stones of Newgrange and Knowth has demonstrated that the greywacke slabs used are likely to have been transported to Brú na Bóinne from the coast at Clogher Head, Co. Louth, a distance of c. 20km.

Rossnaree Enclosure geophysics

This is the first site of its kind to be identified in the Brú na Bóinne area and is additionally significant as it positioned on the S side of the river Boyne. Because of the close association of the lithic scatter, it appears that the enclosure may date from the Neolithic period. Reviews of the evidence for Neolithic enclosures in Ireland suggest that although there are some similarities to Neolithic enclosure sites identified elsewhere, there are no close parallels. The strategic location of the site, the presence of the animal bone in some quantity as well as the human tooth and the greywacke slab all point to a complex set of functions for this site likely to include both a residential habitation element and a more ceremonial element. Investigation of this site, funded by an Archeological Excavation Grant from the Royal Irish Academy Committee for Archaeology, potentially addresses key research questions identified in the
Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site Research Framework, in particular those looking at settlement, the scale of operation of the monument complex, the changing environment and the significance of the River Boyne itself.

To view the slideshow below, click the right arrow below the image and move each image on.

51 responses

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    January 17, 2013 at 1:20 am

  3. Conor,

    Looking forward to seeing how ye get on this year. It’s an amazing looking site. I hope you don’t mind but i gave the excavation a bit of a plug at http://irisharchaeology.ie/.


    July 11, 2011 at 4:44 pm

  4. Dermot

    and good luck with work and the weather for the excavations in July 2011

    July 8, 2011 at 8:10 pm

  5. Dermot

    The site of the production of the motifs on the tombs has never been found or indeed discussed to my knowledge. Over 200 stones were decorated in Knowth alone. Where was this art work done? Thousands of shards of flint must have been broken in the art production process. Could this site with so much flint discovered be the site of the art workshops?

    July 8, 2011 at 8:04 pm

    • Hi Dermot, An interesting question. I think there is good evidence that a lot of the artwork was carved on stones in situ at the sites themselves but some certainly could have been carved elsewhere. They might have been doing this at Rossnaree, although there is very little evidence of greywacke, the structural stone used in the passage tombs, found at Rossnaree, apart from the single stone we excavated last year. You never know.

      July 11, 2011 at 8:42 pm

  6. Clare Downham

    Sorry that should read Peritia 17-18…

    November 17, 2010 at 12:41 pm

  7. Clare Downham

    Hello there, just to pick up on Ned’s point – I think I argued (based on textual evidence) that there is a longphort at Rosnaree in ‘Vikings in Southern Uí Néill’ Peritia 17-28 (2003-04) 233-55. Would be v. nice if there is archaeological data to support this. I’m sorry I don’t have a copy of the article with me to send the references. Good luck with the dig.

    November 17, 2010 at 12:40 pm

  8. Ned Kelly

    Conor, You have found a D-shaped enclosure on a river bank that dates to the Early Medieval period. Have you considered the possibility that you have uncovered the Viking longphort of Linn-Rois, the construction of which is referred to in the annals?

    November 3, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    • This is an intriguing possibility that has occurred to me already. Another dimension to the archaeology of Brú na Bóinne perhaps!

      November 3, 2010 at 2:03 pm

  9. Sue Donegan

    Thanks for sharing your work with me on the day I wandered into Rossnaree and stayed with Ainsling. I couldn’t have a asked for a more perfect and serendipitous “accident” to have happened. We’ll be watching your progress and reports with great excitement. Sue Donegan

    September 22, 2010 at 12:48 am

  10. John Kelly

    Hi Conor

    Some great feedback you have recieved from everybody. I hope the work went well. I am kicking myself from missing out on the experience. Will look forward to have a chat with you when we go back to college about the whole process

    August 3, 2010 at 2:38 pm

  11. Hi Conor,

    It was great meeting you again over at Rosnaree, and thank you so much for the tour of this great dig – as predicted, it was a highlight of my trip home.

    I love the blog – a highly effective technological means of engaging a wide audience in the day-to-day progress of the dig. Nice work.

    Until next time…

    Bryn Coldrick

    July 30, 2010 at 4:22 am

    • Hi Bryn, Thanks for taking the time to visit; I know your time was short while you were here. Best of luck with the plan, hope to see you again soon. Conor

      July 31, 2010 at 7:00 pm

  12. Molly Poiset

    Hello Conor- Met your folks as they were boating down the Shannon. I mentioned I was in Ireland on holiday to visit Megalithic sites and they referred me to your blog. Great coincidence. As a lay person, I enjoy seeing the process and your progress. All the Best- Molly

    July 29, 2010 at 9:26 am

    • Hi Molly, That is a coincidence! I hope you get a chance to visit the Boyne Valley and Brú na Bóinne in particular – it will be worth the effort! Conor

      July 31, 2010 at 7:02 pm

  13. Martin Maguire

    To Conor and the excavation team,
    A fascinating integration of digital technology and fieldwork, wonderful to watch from the comfort of the armchair! Congratulations to all!
    I look forward to the conclusion of the dig and the report,

    July 27, 2010 at 9:58 am

    • Martin, Many thanks for the support from the sidelines! I am looking forward to the final report too, have to get the funding for the post excavation analysis first! See you soon, Conor.

      July 31, 2010 at 7:04 pm

  14. Hi Conor,
    This is amazing, I will be following progress.
    As an expat who grew up in Dundalk it is brilliant to see your pictures.My father used to take us to the passage tombs round Newgrange long before they became World Heritage Sites. I can’t wait to see what you find.
    Thank you for sharing the information in this way.

    July 23, 2010 at 6:57 pm

  15. Fionna

    Hi Conor

    This is fantastic. Looks like it is all going well. Great to be able to see what is going on at home. Cormac’s first introduction to a blog! Perhaps someday he may be able to help and I’m sure he would settle for biscuits too!

    July 20, 2010 at 2:38 pm

  16. norma kealy

    Hi Conor

    John says thanks for finding those cattle bones..he always wondered where poor ol’ daisy and violet wandered off to! Also that ‘bracelet’ in his professional opinion is off a John Deere 6420, probably 1981 so no need to worry about having it dated!!! :)hope ye did not get too wet this morning. It was so miserable but great to see the sun for the afternoon.

    July 20, 2010 at 2:44 am

  17. norma kealy

    Hi Conor

    Glad all is going well. You and your team have been kept busy by the sounds of things. Hope you continue to make good progress with it all in the coming days.


    July 18, 2010 at 9:34 pm

  18. Odelle

    Hi Conor
    Its really interesting to read your blog. You also have some lovely photos. Best of luck with the rest of the dig. The truth is out there!!!
    All the best

    July 16, 2010 at 3:30 pm

  19. Chris

    Hey Conor,
    Great blog so far. Its fantastic to be able to follow the excavation every day.

    Being unable to find a volunteer project to work on myself I’ll be living my archaeological summer through you all 😀

    Keep up the great work,

    July 14, 2010 at 10:50 pm

  20. Michael Stanley

    Well done on setting up the blog, its bound to attract a large audience. I hope the remainder of the excavation goes well.
    All the best,

    July 12, 2010 at 8:53 pm

  21. Thanks for access to this; it is invaluable seeing what is happening from afar. I will be looking with interest at your ongoing dig.

    July 10, 2010 at 6:10 pm

  22. Cóilín

    Hi Conor,

    Fantastic idea to have this blog. Good luck with the dig.


    July 9, 2010 at 10:28 am

  23. Marie

    Very interesting dig I hope to follow up on blog. Looking forward to latest news.

    July 3, 2010 at 10:16 pm

  24. chris randolph

    Hi Conor

    Great blog. I’m looking forward to paying a visit when we get back from Greece (Mmmm,nice!) if that would be OK.

    July 2, 2010 at 8:38 pm

  25. Ed Lyne

    Best of luck with what should be a fascinating dig, would love to come along on another season if you should have one! It will be sooo exciting!

    July 2, 2010 at 7:35 pm

  26. Tom

    This looks great! I’ll follow your progress with interest.

    Good luck with the finds and the weather


    July 2, 2010 at 7:29 pm

  27. Aidan O'Sullivan

    Great website Conor, great images – best of luck with the excavation!


    July 2, 2010 at 5:14 pm

  28. Loving the blog Conor, would that I could join you for the dig! Hope all goes spectacularly well.

    July 2, 2010 at 3:53 pm

  29. Jessica

    Great blog Conor – what a brilliant idea! Looking forward to visiting soon.

    July 2, 2010 at 1:26 pm

  30. Hi Conor,

    That is looking really good. Looking forward to the dig starting. Good luck with it.


    June 30, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    • Hi Steve,
      Thanks for the comment. Makes it feel like there are people out there watching/listening! Looking forward to D-day as well. Hope the sun shines a bit…

      July 1, 2010 at 6:05 pm

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