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

Archive for May, 2011

2010 Season Report

This interim report describes the work undertaken during the 2010 excavation season at Rossnaree Co. Meath. The excavation took place over a four-week period between Monday 5th July and Friday 30th July and targeted a series of topographical and geophysical anomalies identified in previous survey work. The site was first discovered as a dense scatter of lithic (chipped stone) artefacts systematically recovered from the surface of a tilled field during a major extensive surface collection undertaken some years previously in the Brú na Bóinne area (National Museum of Ireland collection number C97.2).

magnetic gradiometry survey Rossnaree Excavation

Mark carrying out the magnetic gradiometry survey

Subsequent multi-method geophysical survey funded by the Heritage Council and undertaken by Kevin Barton of Landscape and Geophysical Services revealed the presence of a large multi-vallate enclosure on the banks of the River Boyne which is roughly D-shaped and is bounded on the north and east sited by the River Boyne at the point where the famous ‘Bend of the Boyne’ begins. The enclosure cordons off an area of approximately 3.5 hectares and measures c.250m east-west by c. 150m north-south. This enclosure was reported to the Archaeological Survey of Ireland and an RMP number was subsequently issued (ME019-080—).

Excavation funding was granted for a dig in 2010 by the Royal Irish Academy Committee for Archaeology and four trenches in total were opened and excavated during the season. Two of these trenches focused on extant low bank-and-ditch features located to the north of the tillage field close to the riverbank. A third trench (Trench 4) examined the continuation of the line of the outer enclosure in the low floodplain to the east of the core area of the site and a fourth trench (Trench 5) investigated the area around a semi-buried greywacke slab close to the field boundary in the pasture field to the east of the core area of the site.

While flint flakes and tools were frequently recovered, the major features on the site, especially the bank feature in Trench 3, was dated to the early medieval period on the basis of the recovery of a double-sided bone or antler comb fragment. A fragment of a copper-alloy strap was also recovered from the same context. A fragment of a lignite bracelet was also recovered from topsoil in Trrench 5, also indicative of activity during the early medieval period.

The interim report may be downloaded in PDF format here. Rossnaree_Report_2010(lowres)

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The 2011 Season is here!

It is now possible to announce that a second season of excavation will now take place at Rossnaree during the coming summer. It is probably safe to say that the dig last year was highly successful. Almost all of the objectives of the project were achieved, the most important of these being the retrieval of material suitable for dating the features at the site. Animal bone was recovered from stratigraphically perfect positions at the base of each of the ditches and in due course these will hopefully provide radiocarbon dates. However, during the excavation itself, we recovered artefacts which gave us a much quicker indication of the date of some of the ectivity carried out at the site in the past. A fragment of a double-sided bone comb indicated that the innermost bank (and probably the ditch too) was constructed sometime in the late first millennium AD. This represents an important addition to our knowledge of activity at this time in the Brú na Bóinne area.

The double-sided bone comb fragment indicating a late 1st millennium date for the enclosure

However, the main research interest of the project is prehistoric, specifically settlement activity in the area during the time when the major prehistoric monuments in the area – the passage tombs and henges – were being built and used. We also still had to explain the major lithic scatter on the surface of the field which brought us to the Rossnaree site in the first place. This was deposited as a result of significant activity during the Neolithic period and it remains a distinct possibility that some of the anomalies identified in the initial geophysical surveys are Neolithic rather than early medieval. Because of this, we decided to have another look and this year we will be excavating in two areas within the ‘core’ area of the site on the top of the little knoll within the central enclosure.

A grant has been secured from the Royal Irish Academy Committee for Archaeology to fund the work and a group of volunteer students from Dundalk Institute of Technology and elsewhere have signed up to work on the site.