DkIT Students take part in Archaeological Excavation

Six students on the Department of Humanities BA Humanities and BA Applied Cultural Studies courses very successfully participated in an archaeological research excavation in the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site this summer.

All students - Jamie Staudt, Sarah O'Brien, Darren Mahon, Sophie Seznec, Ciara O'Grady and Lisa Walls - gained very valuable hands-on experience of on-site archaeological work from mattocking, shovelling and trowelling to finds recovery and sieving. Each carried out some recording of the features on the site including plan and section drawing, surveying using a total station and even some geophysical survey.

Funded by an Excavation Grant from the Royal Irish Academy, this was the second season of excavation at the site which was first discovered as a dense scatter of lithic (chipped stone) material on the surface of a tilled field on the banks of the River Boyne, at the point where the famous 'Bend of the Boyne' begins. Geophysical survey funded by the Heritage Council was then carried out and large multivallate enclosure was revealed. The enclosure is roughly D-shaped and is bounded on the north and east sited by the River Boyne. The enclosure cordons off an area of almost 5 hectares and measures c. 250m east-west by c. 120m north-south.

Aerial view of the site location from the east. The site extended from the tillage field in the middle of the shot to the floodplain immediately below. Another enclosure is visible in the centre of the picture at the bottom. Knowth passage tomb is just out of shot to the right.

Preliminary results reveal that the site is likely to be a cemetery settlement, a new type of site only recently recognised through extensive excavations carried out particularly in relation to the many major NRA road schemes carried out over the last decade or so. Artefacts indicate that the activity on the site falls into two distinct phases: the first dating to the Neolithic period (c.4000 – 2500 BC) around the time when the nearby passage tombs of Newgrange and Knowth were built and used, and the second dating to the Early Medieval period in the second half of the 1st millennium AD at the time when Christianity was being introduced to this country. The fine-grained detail of the site will emerge in the coming months as the post-excavation analysis of finds and samples, including radiocarbon dating, is carried out.

We were very lucky to be given permission to dig a site in such an idyllic location within the area of the World Heritage Site which is a very special place. Many people helped to make the project run smoothly but the biggest debt of gratitude is owed to the student volunteers who so generously gave their time and contributed to the success of the project.

Geophysical plot of the Rossnaree Enclosure showing layout of 2010 season cuttings.

Break-time on site.

Detailed site recording underway.

Left to right: Matt Seaver (U.C.D., former DkIT lecturer, Kevin Barton, Landscape and Geophysical Services, Sophie Seznec, Darren Mahon and Ciara O'Grady.

Sophie's blue glass bead.

Intense work in Cutting 7.

Sophie carries out a detailed plan in Cutting 7.


Conor Brady, Department of Humanities.