The weather is holding up well despite the predictions. Today we finished clearing off in Trench 3, which is close to the core of the site, and moved over to Trench 1, which has been set out over the outermost bank and ditch, to continue the process of cleaning down. In the same way as before, all of the topsoil from beneath the sod is sieved in order to make sure we get as many of the finds as possible. It seems that there was less activity at this end of the site as there are generally fewer flint pieces and much less animal bone than in Trench 3. Clearly, different activities were being carried out in different parts of the site. Possible domestic/residential activities were taking place close to the high ground in the centre of the site within the inner enclosures while there seems to have been different kinds of activity elsewhere. Hopefully as we dig further we will get a better sense of what some of these activities were.
The surface of Trench 3 was photographed, depths were taken and Kieran and Ailbhe got a start on planning the surface with a 1m square planning frame. This is a tricky process in this trench because of the steepness of the slope: it is not possible to lay the planning frame directly onto the ground surface and the corners have to be propped up to keep it level. The draughtsperson has to take care to look through the frame from directly above in order to accurately record the ground surface. It is a slow laborious process but it is still far better than a photograph because of the amount of detail it captures. Once Trench 1 has been fully cleaned down, it will also be photographed and planned in the same way.
We set out another trench, Trench 2, using a total station and we will move into it depending progress in the others. Once this was done, a magnetic susceptibility survey was carried out across the surface using a field instrument (see the Day 2 post for an explanation) and soil samples will be taken as the trench is dug. Using the field loop, care has to be taken to ensure that the loop is as fully in contact with the ground surface as possibly, otherwise an incorrect reading will result.
Other work carriedout on site today included setting out the final cutting, Trench 5. This is positioned around a greywacke slab lying half buried in the surface of the pasture field close to the hedge and the plan is to excavate it and lift it. The significance of this stone is this is the stone type that was used for the structural stones in the passage tombs built on the north 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. This stone is very significant because it is on the south side of the river and it suggests that there may have been a link between those who occupied and used the Rossnaree Enclosure and the builders of the passage tombs. Were both in existence at the same time? There is also a possibility that there may be art carved on the stone, although none is visible at the moment. Although it is possible that this was part of a passage tomb, there are no other indications that one existed at Rossnaree. It may originally have been a standing stone like similar examples in the land below Newgrange and also at the mouth of the Boyne at Baltray.
Along with a few colleagues, I visited a little-known and little-understood site the other day (with the prior permission of the landowner). It is known as the Monknewtown Pond and it is one of the many monuments in the Brú na Bóinne WHS. It is defined by a circular bank up to 3m high surrounded for half its circumference by a ditch over 2m deep and 3m wide. The interior is about 30m across and is waterlogged and contains standing water for most of the year, apparently a deliberate design feature. The monument sits in a bowl-like feature, possibl a natural glacial feature, which is c.150m across and which has a very slight ‘lip’ around part of its edge; possible the remnants of an outer bank.
Some have suggested that the monument may date to the Neolithic period because it is located in a landscape full of other Neolithic monuments. Apparently, similar monuments are known in Britain in landscapes where there are henge monuments and it is interesting that the Monknewtown Pond is located a few hundred metres from the Monknewtown Henge. Others have pointed to similarities between this monument and a site called the King’s Stables in the Navan Complex in Co. Armagh. Part of this site was excavated and a range of material was recovered suggestive of deliberate ritual deposition and a ceremonial function for that site. This material dated to the Late Bronze Age although it is not clear whether the King’s Stables was first constructed in the Late Bronze Age or earlier.
Whatever the truth about this site it seems to be very well preserved and because of this, and also because the core of the site appears to have been waterlogged for much of its history, it offers huge potential for the recovery of organic material and evidence about the environment in the past. Although it doesn’t look particularly exciting in comparison to some of the other monuments in Brú na Bóinne, it is likely that ther is a lot more there than meets the eye.
This was taken one evening after a long day’s surveying in the field at Rossnaree. The sky is ominously dark, warning of an imminent downpour.
Hopefully there will be few of these during the dig … but this IS Ireland!