Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Archaeology 360: Rathmullan Priory, Co. Donegal

In this, the concluding piece from the Chapple Family’s sojourn in the wonderful county of Donegal, we stopped off at Rathmullan Priory. I would point out that we only got there by accident – we never actually intended to go. We been staying in Buncrana and had decided to head further west to my old stomping grounds around Dunfanaghy and Portnablagh. As I detailed in my previous post [here], I’d managed to escape the clutches of my beach-loving family and spend some time wandering around the secluded ruins of Doe Castle. Well, by the time I returned from the castle, everyone was pretty much exhausted from playing on the beach. We slowly packed up, made our way back to the car, turned on the GPS and headed for home. A well-prepared, thoughtful driver would have been aware of the GPS settings and, perhaps, plotted some way points to ensure that the correct route was followed. I, on the other hand, simply turned it on, set the address for Buncrana and trusted to whatever small gods exist between the lines of code of the GPS algorithm. This is why, about the time I was thinking to myself ‘shouldn’t we have been through Letterkenny by now?’, we found ourselves instead approaching the village of Rathmullan. To our unexpected delight we found that we weren’t too far from our accommodation, at least not ‘as the crow flies’, and that the last leg would be accomplished on a remarkably scenic ferry crossing. How better to spend the time waiting than explore around the ruins of this gorgeous abbey?


Wikipedia tells us [here] that the site was first constructed by Eoghan Rua MacSweeney in 1516 as a Carmelite Friary. It appears to have been inhabited as late as the early 19th century when Bishop Knox, in fear of a French invasion, had it fortified. Unfortunately, when we visited the interior was locked up, limiting our opportunities to explore. All the more reason to come back, I think.

You can view it on an ordinary browser or on the dedicated YouTube app, but for best results we recommend the immersive experience that comes with an Oculus/Google Cardboard headset. Please feel free to Like and Share the video and Subscribe to the Archaeology 360 channel. If you’re feeling peculiarly generous and wish to help purchase snacks to sustain the Chapples Minor in the field, please drop something in the Tip Jar on the top right of this page.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Archaeology 360: Doe Castle, Co. Donegal

In the previous instalment to this series of 360-degree video posts I took you to see the remains of the Early Medieval house at Rinnaraw [here]. The back story to this was that I’d left the rest of the family on the beach at Portnablagh and walked back to Rinnaraw on my own. Partly, this was because I didn’t think they’d be all that interested in such an apparently ‘slight’ monument that would require trudging across a field to go see. The other part was that I felt the visit should be a solo encounter with the site and an opportunity for personal reflection and meditation, which is hard to achieve when each of the Chapples Minor are trying to throw the other off the edge of the precipice. All went well. I completed my filming and ruminations in perfect peace and eventually dandered back to where the rest of the family were on the beach. I had hoped that all would have run through their fascination with sand and seawater by now and we’d soon be on our way to see more archaeology. Turns out the Chapples Minor had other ideas. They actually like beaches and the sand and the water and all that awful stuff and they, if you don’t mind, would very much like to stay. I, I am afraid to say, greeted this with all the maturity and grace of the Elder Statesman of the profession on this island that I clearly am, and confined my rebuttals to heavy exasperated sighing and dramatic eye-rolls. My wife, ever the peacemaker, suggested that I might like … you know … to go see some archaeology … on my own … where I wasn’t being an egregious knob to our offspring. Like one of those cartoon characters that move so fast they leave a dust outline in the air long after they’ve sped away, I didn’t need to be asked twice and was on my way up the beach and back to the car in a twinkling. Not so long after that I was making my way through the tangle of back roads that eventually lead to Doe Castle.


The earliest parts of castle are probably of 15th century day and were constructed by members of the O’Donnell family, before (sometime in the 1440s) falling into the possession of what Wikipedia calls ‘the gallowgalss MacSweeny family’. It appears to have had a much-storied history before finally becoming a residence of the Vaughan Harts and was inhabited up until 1843. All this & more may be gleaned from the Wikipedia entry, including the fact that its most recent claim to fame is that ‘Irish singer Brian McFadden proposed to his (now ex-) wife, Kerry Katona, at the castle in 2001, it being the spot where his grandfather also had proposed to his grandmother’. So there’s that …


Personally, I had a great time at the castle and I do believe that the Chapples Minor missed out on a wonderful experience by not coming along. Either way, I returned to the embrace of my family on Portnablagh beach. I was happy and contented, having seen some great archaeology and they were happily exhausted from cavorting in the surf.

You can view it on an ordinary browser or on the dedicated YouTube app, but for best results we recommend the immersive experience that comes with an Oculus/Google Cardboard headset. Please feel free to Like and Share the video and Subscribe to the Archaeology 360 channel. If you’re feeling peculiarly generous and wish to help purchase snacks to sustain the Chapples Minor in the field, please drop something in the Tip Jar on the top right of this page.

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Archaeology 360: Early Medieval House, Rinnaraw, Co Donegal

Anyone following this series of posts will be aware that most concentrate on relatively well known and accessible monuments, but for this one I'm taking a different approach. I’m going to be frank – there’s probably little reason to visit this site in person. It’s on no ‘must see’ list, nor does it come highly recommended in any guide book, but for all that, it’s special to me! This is Rinnaraw, a little Early Medieval house site, overlooking Sheephaven Bay. It is overgrown and quiet now, but it was excavated by Dr Tom Fanning from 1987 to 1992 [Reports Here | Final Publication] and was the scene of my very first archaeological excavation [Reminiscences Here].

 


I worked there in 1989 and hadn’t been back since. Watching the images now, I’m immediately thrown back to the sounds and dedicated activity of over 30 years ago and it has given me a place to lightly meditate on my life and the passing years. I realise that very few reading this blog post will share these ancient memories, but I do hope it can provide a relatively quiet place for thoughtful reflection and the enjoyment of a little-known archaeological gem.

For this one I’ve stuck with the diegetic sound recorded on site, as opposed to covering it over with a musical piece. Unfortunately, that leaves quite a bit of wind in the microphone, but you can still hear the birdsong, the passing cars and even (I think) the distant sound of the waves breaking in the bay.


You can view it on an ordinary browser or on the dedicated YouTube app, but for best results we recommend the immersive experience that comes with an Oculus/Google Cardboard headset. Please feel free to Like and Share the video and Subscribe to the Archaeology 360 channel. If you’re feeling peculiarly generous and wish to help purchase snacks to sustain the Chapples Minor in the field, please drop something in the Tip Jar on the top right of this page.


Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Archaeology 360: WWII Lookout Post, Horn Head, Co Donegal

As part of our Summer excursion to Donegal, I wanted to bring the family to see the incredible views from Horn Head. Back in 1989, when I was working at Tom Fanning's excavation at Rinnaraw, we used to walk out here of an evening. For the unwary, I would note that there are two different routes on this little jut of land. One brings you to this World War II lookout post with modest parking and spectacular views. The other fork in the road will bring you to equally gorgeous vistas, but will involve driving along a road that is literally terrifying - precipitous drops, no hard shoulder, and definitely zero space to allow two cars to pass. This is the route we took first and I'm not too proud to admit that I stayed in the car while the more adventurous members of the family walked about calmly outside like it was perfectly safe and I wasn't totally over reacting!

anyway, once we got on the right path, parked and got to the crest of this little rise, the whole of Horn Head was laid out before us - and what a view it was! The National Inventory of Architectural Heritage notes that this is one of an original 83 lookout posts that stretched 'from Ballagan Point in Louth to Inishowen Head in Donegal'. As you look out the windows on its north side, you can see the distant, crumbling remains of its forerunner, the Napoleonic period signal tower. Unfortunately, none of us felt sufficiently energetic to contemplate a trudge across the bog to visit it (the lure of the nearby beaches was too much for the Chapples Minor), but you can read all about it in Dr Stuart Rathbone's rather excellent research into Irish Signal Stations [here].


You can view it on an ordinary browser or on the dedicated YouTube app, but for best results we recommend the immersive experience that comes with an Oculus/Google Cardboard headset. Please feel free to Like and Share the video and Subscribe to the Archaeology 360 channel. If you’re feeling peculiarly generous and wish to help purchase snacks to sustain the Chapples Minor in the field, please drop something in the Tip Jar on the top right of this page.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Co Meath: Archaeological Objects at The British Museum

The British Museum holds 70 items identified as coming from Co Meath, along with one labelled as coming from either Armagh or Meath. The majority of these (30) are assigned to the Early Medieval period, followed by the Bronze Age (12). The most common object type represented are bracelets (10), followed by socketed axes (7). The two material types represented in this assemblage are: Metal (54), Stone (11), Bone (4), and Glass (2).


Neolithic/Bronze Age: Stone items
Meath
adze
20050501.329
Polished stone adze with broken butt, side slightly damaged/indented.

Meath
axe
20050501.330
Polished stone axe with taperring rounded butt, slightly damaged; blade chipped.

Meath
axe
20050501.332
Polished stone axe with slightly damaged rounded butt.


Bronze Age: Metal items
Meath
spear-head
19910410.141
Copper alloy socketed spearhead, blade perforated. Damaged.

Meath
spear-head
18730602.240
Copper alloy socketed spearhead, socket damaged.

Meath
dagger
WG.1604
Copper alloy dagger.

Meath
socketed axe
WG.1577
Copper alloy socketed axe; cast. Oval uneven mouth with a uneven bevelled rim. Straight sided with expanded cutting edge, now chipped and blunt. Surface not smooth.

Dunslaughlin (near)
socketed axe
OA.112
Copper alloy socketed axe; cast. Oval mouth with bevelled rim. Straight sides with expanded cutting edge and re-curved tips, chipped and blunted. Hole in side under loop. Casting seams are very prominent on each side.

Tara, Hill of
socketed axe
18660627.690
Copper alloy socketed axe; cast. Oval mouth with bevelled rim. Waisted body with well expanded cutting edge, now chipped. Surface is smooth, casting seams are rounded ridges at each side. Short haft rib.

Balnadrinna
dagger
18530528.100
Copper alloy dagger, socketed.

Kells
socketed axe
WG.1561
Copper alloy socketed axe; cast. A ridge separates the neck from the body. Oval mouth with flat rim and narrow band. Body cross-section hexagonal but side faces convex not angular.

Athboy
socketed axe
WG.1571
Copper alloy socketed axe with an oval mouth. Rim has a ridge of cord moulding. Below are two plain ridges and two grooves. Cutting edge is unexpanded.

Castletown
socketed axe
WG.1576
Copper alloy socketed axe; cast. Oval flare mouth with bevelled rim. Straight sides with crescentic edge and re-curved tips, now blunt.

Kells
socketed axe
WG.1594
Copper alloy socketed axe, cast, with heaxagonal cross-section. Outwardly bevelled rim and neck collar.


Early Bronze Age: Metal items
Dunshaughlin
dagger
18481101.200
Copper alloy dagger with no decoration.

Kells
flat axe
WG.1532
Copper-alloy flat axe; with a thin, slightly rounded butt. Sides splay widely to form a wide, rounded cutting-edge. Sides are double-faceted. Entire object is covered dark brown and green patina.

Athboy
flat axe
WG.1534
Copper-alloy flat axe; with thin, narrow, angular butt, which has been hammered slightly. Sides are roughly parallel to each other in upper half, then swing out gently in lower half to form a wide, slightly rounded cutting-edge.

Trim
axe
WG.1546
Copper alloy flanged axe with thin, rounded butt; decorated.
L-R: WG.1555, WG.1546, WG.1553, WG.1554

Kells
dagger
WG.1598
Copper alloy halberd with practically symmetrical blade and five rivet holes arranged in an arc in the rounded hafting-plate. The cutting-edge has bevelled sides and the midrib is straight.

Hill of Tara,Croppy's Grave
flat axe
18510717.300
Copper-alloy flat axe; with thin, narrow, slightly rounded, damaged butt. Sides are roughly parallel to each other, only splaying widely close to the cutting-edge, which appears to have been hammered vertically.


Middle Bronze Age: Metal items
Taragh Hill (near)
palstave
OA.113
Copper alloy palstave.

Trim
palstave
WG.1555
Copper alloy palstave.

Mayvore (?)
palstave
WG.1556
Copper alloy palstave, looped.

Trim
palstave
WG.1553
Copper alloy palstave.

Trim
palstave
WG.1554
Copper alloy palstave.


Late Bronze Age: Metal items
Clonard
ring
WG.30
Gold penannular plain ring. The circular solid body is circular in cross-section and it is slightly thinner at the ends rather than in the middle. The ring has parallel squared flat endings facing each other.
1150BC-750BC (circa)

Tara, Hill of (near)
sleeve fastener
18490301.900
Gold sleeve fastener. The crescent-shaped body is decorated with longitudinal incised grooves on the outer surface. The ends are decorated with a fine diamond pattern between two bands of three horizontal incised grooves.
1150BC-750BC (circa)

Tara, Hill of (near)
sleeve fastener
18490301.800
Gold sleeve fastener. The crescent-shaped body is decorated with longitudinal incised grooves on the outer surface. The ends are decorated with a fine diamond pattern between two bands of three horizontal incised grooves.
1150BC-750BC (circa)


Iron Age: Glass item
Tara, Hill of
sample
18920525.100
Three glass lumps of red enamel-paste; broken off from larger mass.
100 BC - AD 200 (circa)


Early Medieval: Bone items
Dunshaughlin, crannog
needle
18481101.170
Needle; bone, pierced head, shank of oval section.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
needle
18481101.150
Needle; bone; pierced head, shank of oval section.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
needle
18481101.160
Needle; bone, pierced head, shank of oval section.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
needle
18481101.140
Bone needle; flat pierced head, shank of oval section.
5thC-11thC


Early Medieval: Metal items
Kells (?not proven)
crozier
18590221.100
Wooden crozier; crook of silver and staff of copper alloy sheet; animal and open-work decoration; human head; Irish inscription.
9thC-12thC

Dunshaughlin, Environs of Lagore Crannóg
sword
OA.1709
Iron sword-blade and tang with short, narrow blade; mid-rib on both sides and straight shoulders.
5thC-11thC (?)

Tara, Hill of (?)/Skreen (? near)
pseudo-penannular brooch
18930618.290
Silver pseudo-penannular brooch. Slender hoop, at the apex two panels of gilt interlace framing an empty rectangular setting.
8thC-9thC(early)

Meath
harp
18680709.490
Copper alloy harp peg, perforated at the bottom, circular section shank widening towards square section head - a lozenge with square sides.
8thC-11thC (?)

Tara, Hill of
pseudo-penannular brooch
18680709.210
Copper alloy pseudo-penannular brooch; hoop with central setting; linked terminals with red enamel and interlace; lentoid pin-head.
8thC-9thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
pin
18481101.130
Copper alloy round headed pin, shank of oval section.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
tool/implement
18481101.400
Iron hooked bar of rectangular section, broken at one end.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
ringed pin (?); penannular brooch (?)
18481101.200
Copper alloy penannular brooch or ringed pin, suspended from the hoop is a black glass annular bead decorated with red and white dots.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
chain
18481101.300
Iron chain, three long oval links of strip metal, two of the links are folded.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
tool/implement
18481101.800
Iron point.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
hook
18481101.600
Iron strip, flat section, bent to form a hook.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
knife
18481101.100
Iron knife blade, tip and tang missing.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
nail
18481101.700
Iron nail, large, disc-headed, square section shaft.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
knife
18481101.110
Iron knife blade, angled back, damaged.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
knife
18481101.900
Iron knife blade, curved back and narrow tang.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
tool/implement
18481101.500
Iron object, central portion of oval section, remains of a loop at each end.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin
penannular brooch
18531117.150
Cast (?)copper alloy penannular brooch with expanded terminals and hoop of rectangular section; very corroded.
5thC-9thC

Navan, rath
pin
18510717.700
Leaded gun metal pin with rounded head, decorated with incised, radiating lines.
5thC-10thC

Clonard
penannular brooch
19021219.300
Leaded bronze penannular brooch; plain hoop and animal head terminal set with red enamel. Pin, oval section with incised flat head.
5thC-6thC

Dunshaughlin
pin
18680709.400
Copper alloy round headed pin; shank of oval section.
5thC-10thC

Dunshaughlin
spear-head
18531117.140
Iron spear-head with angled shoulder and prominent mid-rib, the socket with incised bands and three lozenges.
5thC-11thC

Kells (?not proven)
fitting; crozier
18590221.200
Kells Crozier. Now separate copper alloy sheets which formed the original fitting of the crozier's crook, but were later covered with the silver mounts.
9thC-12thC


Early Medieval: Stone items
Dunshaughlin, crannog
bracelet
1848,1101.12.d
Shale, portion of a bracelet, of oval section now in two pieces.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
bracelet
1848,1101.12.a
Shale, portion of a bracelet, of D-shaped section.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
bracelet
1848,1101.12.c
Shale, portion of a bracelet, of D-shaped section.
5thC-11thC

Dunshaughlin, crannog
bracelet
1848,1101.12.b
Shale, portion of a bracelet, of circular section.
5thC-11thC


Romano-British: Glass item
Dunshaughlin
bracelet
18680709.570
Fragment of a circular glass bracelet, pale.


Romano-British: Metal items
Newgrange
finger-ring
18840520.600
Gold finger-ring, the hoop formed of longitudinally grooved gold strip bordered with milled wire, which continues at the shoulders to form volute decoration.
4thC

Newgrange
finger-ring
18840520.500
Gold finger-ring. The hoop, oval in plan view, is formed of three beaded wires attached to one another. The shoulders are decorated with double spirals of milled/beaded wire and small pellets.
4thC

Newgrange
necklace
18840520.400
Gold chain necklace: 50 links of basic single loop-in-loop construction, with a standard hook and eye clasp, now damaged. The links are very uneven, and there has been extensive crushing damage.
4thC


Collection of Romano-British items from Newgrange

Newgrange
bracelet
18840506.200
Gold bracelet formed of two tapering gold wires twisted together, with a hook-and-eye clasp. One of the two small gold beads flanking the clasp has been lost, and the overall oval shape is probably the result of wear and distortion
4thC

Newgrange
bracelet
18840506.100
Gold bracelet, formed of two wires twisted together, with a damaged hook-and-eye clasp. There are small spheres of gold applied at the point where the twisted wires begin.
4thC


Romano-British: Stone items
Dunshaughlin
bracelet
18680709.580
Jet bracelet fragment.

Dunshaughlin
bracelet
18680709.590
Jet bracelet fragment.

Dunshaughlin
bracelet
18680709.600
Jet bracelet fragment.


Late Medieval: Metal item
Kells
seal-impression; seal
18620301.100
Seal-matrix for a counter-seal of a local or official seal; bronze; circular; high semi-circular ridge for handle at back; open hand surmounted by flaming star; sprays and patterns with dots in field; inscription; with wax impression.
16thC


Unknown: Stone item
Kilmainham
brooch
18880719.117
Brooch; shale; oval; engrailed edge; incised with basket pattern and central sunken circle, four alternating circles and lentoids; two pierced lugs at back.


The following item is listed in the museum catalogue as coming from either Meath or Armagh:
Bronze Age: Metal item
Navan (Armagh)/Navan (Meath)
spear-head
18510717.140
Copper alloy socketed spearhead, side-looped.