Excavations took place at three sites, 173.1, 173.7 and 173.3, located close to each other, during pre-construction testing for the Cashel to Mitchelstown (N8) road improvement scheme in 2005, directed by Kara Ward (Excavations 2005, No. 1456, 05E0876). Due to the nature of the archaeological remains at all three and due to their close proximity to each other, the three are considered as a single site for the purposes of this report. The excavation took place from 20 May to 13 June 2006.
Site 173.1, 207416 138243
This site, the most northerly of the three at Loughfeedora, was located in relatively flat pastureland with the ground rising gently to the east and north.
The archaeological remains consisted of two groups of post/stake-holes in the north-east and south-west quadrant of the excavated area and linear features that crossed the site in a north–south and east–west direction. It is thought that these remains represent two phases of activity, with the post/stake-hole clusters possibly relating to prehistoric activity. The linear features are likely to be of relatively recent date.
Seven cut features were recorded in the north-east area. No coherent pattern was recognised. All the features appeared to be heavily truncated and measured from 1.08m by 0.7m to 0.1 by 0.2. The depth range was from 0.04m to 0.2m. The fills were charcoal-flecked silty clays.
Four features recorded in the south-west quadrant formed no coherent pattern and were heavily truncated. They ranged from 0.45m by 0.15m to 0.2m by 0.1m in width and were 0.1–0.5m in depth. The fills were charcoal-flecked silty clays, with F40 containing more significant quantities of charcoal. Fragmentary sherds of coarse pottery were retrieved from the fill of F40.
A large pit (F2) measuring in excess of 2.5m in diameter was recorded at the northern end of the site adjacent to the eastern baulk. A section taken through the feature showed the depth to be in excess of 1.5m, with a fill of stone-free sandy silt. Excavation of this feature and the surrounding area was abandoned for reasons of health and safety following the discovery that the feature overlay a natural sink hole.
A series of linear features was recorded throughout the excavated area. Four (F48–50 and 52) extended in a north–south direction, while at the northern end of the excavated area a further series of linear features cut across these in an east–west direction. All the linear features were heavily truncated. F48 was the widest and measured 1.5m across and 0.15m deep. The fill was sandy silt. The remaining features were of remarkably regular dimensions and measured 0.3m in width by 0.1–0.15m in depth. No indication of date was recorded from the linear features, although it is thought that they are agricultural in origin and of relatively recent date.
Site 173.2, 207400 138213
This site was located 30m south of Site 173.1. The remains consisted of three linear features, and a hearth and spit arrangement surrounded by a series of post/stake-holes.
Prior to excavation the hearth, F8, was characterised by a spread of hard-packed oxidised clay measuring 1m north–south by 0.75m. On excavation, the profile was slightly bowl-shaped with a maximum depth of 0.16m. Ten stake-holes positioned in and around the base of the hearth measured on average 0.1m in diameter and 0.1m deep. A further twelve stake-holes were recorded to the west of the hearth of similar dimensions and together these probably represent the remains of several positions of spits around the hearth.
Twelve post/stake-holes located around the hearth may represent the partly preserved remains of a structure or a series of screens around the hearth. Although severely truncated, these features may have been quite substantial and ranged in diameter from 0.1m to 0.5m. The fills were charcoal-flecked silty clays.
If this arrangement of cut features represents a single structure, it would have been D-shaped in plan with estimated dimensions of c. 4m north-east/south-west by 7m.
Three linear features were recorded in the eastern part of the excavated area. F16 and F3 extended in a roughly north-east/south-west direction. A third linear feature, F12, cut across these at right angles.
Although no dating evidence was forthcoming from the excavated features at this site, it is likely that the linear features represent relatively recent agricultural activity, as they are of a similar nature to those recorded at Site 173.1 to the north. Samples for radiocarbon dating have been submitted from the structural remains, which may prove to be prehistoric in date.
Site 173.3, 207362 138163
This site was located 70m south of Site 173.2. The archaeological remains consisted of two linear features, six post/stake-holes, an oval-shaped pit and two rectangular pits.
The remains of six post/stake-holes were recorded within the excavated area. They formed no coherent pattern. They were filled with charcoal-flecked silty clays. No indication of date was recorded.
Pit F16, recorded adjacent to the southern baulk, measured 1.36m by 0.94m and survived to a depth of 0.2m. The fill was made up almost entirely of silt. No evidence of date was recorded.
Two rectangular pits, F17 and F18, were set at right angles to each other close to a linear feature, F20. F17 measured 1.47m by 1m and was 0.18m deep. The pit sides were vertically cut and the base flat. The fill was a stone-free silt. No indication of date was recorded. F18 was set at right angles to F17, measured 2.25m by 0.9m and was 0.08m deep. The pit sides were again vertically cut and the base flat. The fill was a stone-free silt. No indication of date was recorded.
Two linear features, F19 and F20, extended across the site in a roughly east–west direction. F20 was the more regular and substantial of the two and measured 1.13m wide by 0.27m deep. The fill was a hard-packed yellow clay. F19 was more irregular in plan and measured 0.6m in width and was 0.24m deep. The fill was similar to that recorded in F20.
No indication of date was forthcoming from any of the excavated features, but it seems likely that the linear features are agricultural in origin and of relatively recent date. A sample of charcoal from one of the excavated post-holes has been submitted for radiocarbon dating.
All three sites produced a number of post-hole remains which, with the exception of the possible structure recorded at 173.2, did not form any coherent pattern. Little evidence of date was forthcoming, but the recovery of coarse pottery from Site 173.1 may suggest a broad prehistoric date for at least some of the features on all three sites. If this is so, the evidence from Loughfeedora could indicate dispersed prehistoric activity over a wide area around the three sites, possibly extending beyond the take of the road improvement scheme to the east and west.
Martin Doody, New Road, Portlaoise, Co. Laois, on behalf of Margaraet Gowen & Co. Ltd.
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