Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Crop marks reveal a little more of Lisnacroppan Barrow, Co Down

I don’t know when I last saw a week as densely populated with stories of interesting and important discoveries in Irish archaeology as this one past. Chief among these has been Ken Williams’ & Anthony Murphy’s series of discoveries in the Boyne Valley (here) as well as other similar discoveries across the UK where the recent drought had revealed some impressive cropmarks associated with sub-surface archaeological features. Being of the mind to never leave a band wagon un-jumped upon, I was delighted when I was offered a collection of photographs of Knock Iveagh and environs, near Rathfriland, Co Down, taken from a drone over the past week or so. This approach has many advantages, not least of which is that no one as uncoordinated and accident prone as I am is allowed to pilot a drone through the skies of Co. Down!

Unfortunately, a number of factors limited the use of these images. In the first instance, a substantial number of fields appear to have had their crops cut by the time of the drone flight and, second, several fields just didn’t seem to have been sufficiently parched to show up crop marks. The Save Knock Iveagh group plant to re-fly this area in the coming weeks in the hope that some differential regrowth on the cut fields will allow features to be spotted. Alternatively, if the drought progresses, it may be possible to see further detail in ostensibly barren fields.

In the meantime, I present the closest thing I have to a ‘new’ discovery. Lisnacroppan Barrow (‘the fort of the hillock’) is comprised of a mound and enclosure ditch and would appear to date to the prehistoric period. In later times it was used as an inauguration site. The HED’s online Sites & Monuments Record notes that ‘It has been ploughed down in the E half, in a line NW-SE, both parts are separated by a fence’. A report by David Bell from 2011 notes that ‘This appears to have occurred between the publication of the 1st and 3rd editions of the relevant OS 6” map, probably in the later half of the 19th century.’ Although slightly difficult to see, the aerial photograph can be seen to show a curving arc running through the missing portion of the site. Initially, I though it may have represented an inner ditch between the mound and the external bank, but the more I look at it, the more I'm coming to the conclusion that it's a previously unrecognised ditch, external to the whole site. Perhaps further flights will reveal more of this site and even some further features, as yet unrecognised, in the surrounding fields.

I am grateful to the Save Knock Iveagh group for the use of their photography. Please support them by giving their page a ‘like’ [here]