Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Co Galway: Archaeological Objects at The British Museum

The British Museum holds 47 items identified as coming from Co Galway. A further three are listed as from either Galway or Westmeath, along with one each either from Galway or Fermanagh or Mayo. The majority of these (26) are assigned to the Bronze Age, followed by the Early Medieval period (8) and the Iron Age (6). The most common object type represented are rings (16), followed by pins (6) and socketed axes (4). Only three material types are represented in this assemblage: Metal (45), Stone (6) and Bone (1).


Neolithic/Bronze Age: Stone Items
Galway, Tumulus
axe
18540714.890
Polished stone axe ; broken

Galway
axe
St.131.a
Polished stone axe; flat butt; chipped blade.



Bronze Age: Metal Items
Galway
spear-head
19641201.830
Copper alloy spear-head tip

Galway
spear-head
18620521.100
Copper alloy socketed spear-head, pegged. In two pieces, joined by wood in socket.

Galway
socketed axe
18730602.170
Copper alloy socketed axe; cast, loop damaged.

Galway
dirk
WG.1603
Copper alloy dirk, two rivets in situ.

Galway
socketed axe
18750401.240
Copper alloy socketed axe; cast. Mouth is circular and damaged, rim projects and curves back into the body.

Tuam (near)
socketed axe
18660627.780
Copper alloy socketed axe; cast. Oval mouth, rim rounded at top but is damaged.

Athenry
shield
18880719.100
Well preserved small sheet-bronze shield of round shape, doomed and beaten out of a single disc.

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.108
Copper alloy ring.
350 BC - 250 BC (circa)

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.109
Copper alloy ring.
350 BC - 250 BC (circa)

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.110
Copper alloy ring.
350 BC - 250 BC (circa)

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.111
Copper alloy ring.
350 BC - 250 BC (circa)

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.112
Copper alloy ring.
350 BC - 250 BC (circa)

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.113
Copper alloy ring.
350 BC - 250 BC (circa)

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.114
Copper alloy ring.
350 BC - 250 BC (circa)

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.115
Copper alloy ring.

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.116
Copper alloy ring.

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.117
Copper alloy ring.

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.118
Copper alloy ring.

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.119
Copper alloy ring.

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.120
Copper alloy ring.

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.121
Copper alloy ring.

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.122
Copper alloy ring.

Ballynakill
ring
18540714.123
Copper alloy ring.

Moore
socketed axe
WG.1584
Copper alloy socketed axe. Body cross-section hexagonal. Mouth slightly bevelled and flared, ridge at base of neck. Three haft ribs extend to the rim.

Meelick; Shannon, River
sword
18540714.281
Copper alloy sword. The tang appears to have been cast on. It has one rivet-hole and unperforated depressions for two more.


Iron Age: Metal Items
Galway (near ?)
horse bridle-bit
18680709.130
Copper alloy horse-bit, two fragments.

Galway (near ?)
horse bridle-bit
18530528.300
Three fragments from bronze horse-bit.

Galway (near ?)
horse bridle-bit
18680709.120
Copper alloy horse-bit, two fragments.

Galway (near ?)
harness-fitting
18530528.500
Copper alloy Y-shaped harness-fitting. The two upper terminals are heavily corroded. The one remaining terminal terminates in a hollow bulbous knob.
300 BC - 100 AD (circa)

Galway (near ?)
harness-fitting
18530528.400
Copper alloy Y-shaped harness-fitting. The two upper terminals are heavily corroded. The one remaining terminal terminates in a hollow bulbous knob.
300 BC - 100 AD (circa)

Athenry
chape
18680709.300
Cast copper alloy openwork chape. Straight bridge at back, plain apart from a tiny 'nipple' projecting inwardly at each corner.


Early Medieval: Metal items
Galway
pin
18680709.430
Copper alloy pin with remains of hooked head; shank of oval section.
5thC-11thC

Galway
pin
18680709.420
Brass pin with T-shaped head of flat section; shank of oval section.
10thC-11thC

Galway
pin
18680709.410
Leaded gun metal mushroom-headed pin with sub-biconical head, decorated with incised vertical lines; shank of oval section.
5thC-10thC

Loughrea Lake
ringed pin
18680709.290
Copper alloy ring-headed pin; ring transversely incised.
9thC-10thC

Clonfert
penannular brooch
18680709.200
Leaded bronze penannular brooch with ribbed hoop; terminals of opposed animal heads with setting; plain pin-head, oval section pin, now separated.
5thC


Viking; Early Medieval: Metal item
Galway
penannular brooch; bossed penannular brooch
18690301.100
Silver bossed penannular brooch, each terminal with five bosses and incised animal interlace decoration. Pin separate.
9thC-10thC


Medieval; Early Medieval: Bone item
Aran Islands
counter
18620301.900
Bone counter with three concentric double-incised circles intersected by five semi-circles forming central circle.
11thC-13thC


Medieval: Metal items
Galway
finger-ring
AF.1822
Finger-ring; gold; slender hoop and oval bezel, both of rough workmanship; the bezel is set with a cabochon amethyst.
13thC-14thC

Athenry
shrine; figure
18800802.135
Cast copper alloy ecclesiastical figure from a shrine, wearing a cloak and girdle and holding a book to his chest; elongated; traces of gilding.
12thC(early)

Tuam
plaque
OA.7485
Plaque; bronze; oval; embossed with crowned woman holding in right arm a child who appears to be munching a biscuit, Virgin and Child; towered buildings in background; two holes at top and bottom; Our Lady of Tuam?.
14thC


Late Medieval: Metal item
Galway
finger-ring
18540714.299
Finger-ring; silver; nielloed; oval bezel with sacred monogram.
15thC


Unknown: Stone items
Galway (said to be)
sculpture
20138017.800
Carved granite sculpture in the form of a head.
1stC-20thC (?)

Galway (said to be)
sculpture
20138017.121
Carved limestone sculpture in the form of a head.
1stC-20thC (?)

Clonfert (said to be)
sculpture
20138017.160
Carved granite sculpture in the form of a head, mounted on a wooden plinth.
1stC-20thC (?)


The following item is listed in the museum catalogue as coming from either Galway or Fermanagh:
Neolithic/Bronze Age: Stone item
Fermanagh/Aran Islands
axe
19080208.100
Large polished stone axe; blade missing; damaged butt.


The following item is listed in the museum catalogue as coming from either Galway or Mayo:
Bronze Age: Metal item
Galway/Mayo
flat axe
19511103.100
Copper-alloy flat axe; with a thin, narrow, rounded butt.


The following items are listed in the museum catalogue as coming from either Galway or Westmeath:
Early Medieval: Metal items
Galway/Athlone?
pin
18680709.460
Leaded bronze pin with moulded 'bead and reel' ribbed decoration on head.
5thC-11thC

Galway/Athlone?
pin
18680709.440
Leaded bronze mushroom-headed pin, with ribbed conical head; shank of rectangular section with lines of punched decoration.
5thC-10thC

Galway/Athlone?
pin
18680709.450
Gun metal polyhedral headed pin; shank of square section, transverse ribbed moulding below.
9thC-10thC

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Into the West: Knockmany Chambered Grave




The first stop on my journey was to Knockmany Passage Grave. It’s one of those places I’ve heard about so much. It seems that if you studied archaeology in QUB at a certain time you were forced out there at knife-point every second weekend … or, at least, that’s how the story seems to be told. So, it was definitely one of those sites that I wanted to go see for myself. I followed the signs from Clogher, left my vehicle in the car park, shouldered my equipment, and headed on up the hill. I may not be the world’s fittest person, but I was doing pretty well … for a while, at least. As the gradient increased and the tripod strap dug further into my shoulder I started to reconsider my enthusiasm for this excursion. It occurred to me that I hadn’t actually told anyone where I was going. If I didn’t turn up in Sligo, how long would it be before anyone realised I was missing? As I plodded along the forestry path the trees seemed to close in and the views of the sky dimmed. How long would it be before anyone thought of expanding the search area out far enough to find my car? See - this is how stupid middle-aged men die! As I wheezed and panted my way along, the trees suddenly parted and the daylight flooded back. I felt the breeze on my face and the dark thoughts of breaking an ankle and expiring in a ditch quickly receded.



The site is a passage grave, dating to the latter part of the Neolithic period. Although the capstones have all been removed, many of the uprights survive in situ and three are decorated. The uprights are set into shallow sockets, cut into the underlying bedrock. The decoration consists of a variety of ‘passage tomb art’ motifs, including concentric circles and ziz-zag lines. Excavation of the site by Collins & Waterman in 1951 demonstrated that the chamber had originally been covered by a stone cairn, itself overlain with earth. The excavation also discovered a dark layer within the chamber, around the upright stones, that produced cremated human remains. Further burnt human bone was recovered from disturbed deposits outside the tomb. This and other layers also produced a leaf-shaped arrowhead, two leaf-shaped flakes, and a knife, all in Antrim flint. A single, rather plain and undistinguished sherd of pottery (also probably of Neolithic date) was also recovered from a disturbed layer near the top of the cairn. The cairn we see today is almost wholly reconstructed and features what amounts to a concrete tank around the chamber stones and a box skylight affair. I understand the reasoning behind the construction of this monstrosity … the stones are among the finest Neolithic carvings in Northern Ireland and, short of removing them to the Ulster Museum, they required some degree of security and protection from both the elements and potential vandals. For all that, I find it hard to find much love for this particular solution. It looks like it has more in common with the design of secure gun emplacements rather than the megalithic tomb tradition. I think that this impression is only reinforced by the startlingly beautiful image of the young Edwardian girl perched between the stones before the site was excavated and conserved. It is a Romantic vision of an accessible site in an open, unfettered landscape and very much at odds with the site as it is presented today. The other side of this is, of course, the fact that (as much as I dislike the concrete) this is probably closer to how it would have appeared in antiquity – a complete mound with limited access … but without the skylight.



It is only fair that I should, at this juncture, pause to note that the entity of my planning for visiting this site was ‘look out for the sign once I hit Augher’. That was it. I never once though that access to the interior would be restricted. So, after my near-death experience climb, I found that I was locked out – separated from the stones by a padlocked gate. In reading some of the available on-line literature (listed at the end of this post) a variety of places are listed as having keys or at least being able to provide access, though I have no idea how current any of these are. Just because I wandered up there without adequate preparation doesn’t mean that you should have to!



In reading the forgoing you may come away with the idea that I didn’t enjoy the site and don’t recommend that you too take the time to explore. It’s true that I was locked out and that the bunker was less than completely aesthetically pleasing. However, the ‘sunroof’ provided more than enough light to clearly see most of the decoration on the stones (though the glass could do with a bit of a clean). Even if there was no tomb up there, the walk is worth it just for the view out over the Clogher valley. While I may have come up here for the archaeological site, a good deal of my time was spent gazing out across the landscape. Sitting on the modern step of the bunker it is easy to let one’s mind wander to thoughts of how the tomb was built and the choices made in its location. Even more so on the realities of the ceremonies interring the cremated dead here and visiting the site … generation after generation taking a moment to pause here and look out over the landscape before, like me, heading back down the hill and away …







Notes:

If you go to the Northern Ireland Sites and Monuments Record [here] you can search for the site as TYR 059:001. The scanned contents of the NIEA’s SM7 file on the site is available [here].

Other resources: