Neolithic/Early Bronze Age Occupation
H816 756
The site, near Cookstown, is on a low sandhill above an old sandpit, which was used as a Council rubbish dump. Early in 1971 flints and sherds of Neolithic and Early Bronze Age pottery were found and pits noted, in the exposed face at the top of the sandpit. The circumstances indicated a site possibly comparable to that at Ballynagilly, a few miles away. Part of the site was to be bulldozed in the summer, as soon as dumping in the sandpit finished, and so a small rescue excavation, lasting six weeks, was conducted during March and April in the area to be destroyed.

The exposed face of the sandpit, from which the finds had come, was cleaned, examined and recorded, and an area totalling 94 sq. metres was opened,

Removal of the topsoil revealed traces of 19th century agricultural activity, including lazy bedding and a ditch. Below this, over the whole area of excavation, was a spread of discoloured sand containing charcoal, flints and sherds of Neolithic pottery, as well as patches of darker discolouration denoting pits and hearths. These features ranged from mere scoops in the ground to pits up to l.50m across and 0.80m deep. One of the largest and deepest incorporated a semi—circular setting of small boulders around a concentration of charcoal in the lower fill. Nearly all produced pottery and implements similar to those from the occupation layer as a whole. One small hearth contained sherds of two almost complete shouldered bowls. Another contained part of a plain bowl and a broken polished stone axe.

Two major features were a large pit about 3m across and l.50m deep, and a ditch between 4 and 5m wide and about l.25m deep, which cut the pit on the north side, at the northern limit of excavation.

The pit contained a central slot large enough to take a massive post, and the fill produced sherds of Carrowkeel Ware, a fine lozenge shaped arrowhead and a perforated stone pendant.

The ditch ran East—West, with a slight curve. Judging by its position, it could have enclosed the hill top, in which case the area excavated would be outside the enclosure. In the fill were found flint and quartz implements and 'Western' Neolithic sherds, as well as the only three Early Bronze Age sherds found during excavation.

Samples of charcoal were taken systematically, and members of the Palaeoecology Laboratory at Queen’s University took samples from the sand profile in the hope of obtaining a pollen diagram.

The Neolithic Occupation

Most of the features belong to a Neolithic occupation which seems, from the stratigraphical evidence, to have been continuous. The pottery relating to this occupation is entirely of ‘Western’ Neolithic type. The flint industry includes flakes, blades, blade—end scrapers, discoidal scrapers, knives and leaf—shaped arrowheads. No hollow scrapers were found. A significant scatter of microlithic points was found over the whole site, and these did not seem to be residual from an earlier occupation, though the possibility cannot be ruled out absolutely. There was some evidence for flint working on the site in the form of cores, primary flakes and waste, and quartz hammer stones.

The large pit with the central slot may represent separate and later activity on the site, since it contained the only Carrowkeel Ware to be found. Its direct relationship to any feature other than the ditch was indeterminate, and, if it is a posthole, its purpose is uncertain.

Early Bronze Age Occupation

The evidence for Early Bronze Age occupation of the site rests so far with the siz Beaker and Food Vessel sherds found. Three of these were from the fill of the citch which, stratigraphically, seems to be the latest feature, though erosion and the 19th century activity on the site had disturbed the top of the prehistoric levels and almost certainly removed the upper part of the ditch. The other Bronze Age sherds were surface finds.
Dr. H.M, Bamford, Department of Antiquities, Ulster Museum

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