139592 189162; 139549 189124
A burnt spread was discovered in Gortafricka townland in North County Clare during test excavations on the route of the N18 Gort to Crusheen road scheme carried out by the writer for Galway County Council. The site lies at 33.55m OD and was situated on the edge of wetland with a steep slope to the north and west. This field is currently under pasture. Gortafricka 2 was excavated in May 2008.
The site consisted of an irregular spread of compact, heat-fractured limestone and sandstone within a charcoal/peat matrix. It measured 12.5m north–south by 15m and survived to a depth of 0.2m. The burnt stone was sealed under peat topsoil and lay directly on top of brown peat subsoil. Beneath this was a yellow/grey undulating and pitted subsoil.
Cut into this were the remains of a shallow trough, a possible gully and three pits, all of which were revealed following the removal of the burnt-stone spread material.
The sub-oval trough measured 1.62m east–west by 1.26m by 0.09m deep. This feature was constructed of a layer of wooden planks (three partial timbers remained) aligned east–west. The timbers were much degraded and no toolmarks were evident. It contained nineteen distinct deposits. Three partial timbers and fourteen circular stake-holes/slots (0.09m in average diameter) cut into the trough base and were set principally along the bottom edge. A silt deposit on the western edge of the trough was covered by brownish-black clay sand. The entire feature was finally sealed by mound material and topsoil. There was a single stake-hole situated on the western and eastern edge of trough.
A shallow irregular linear gully (2.8m by 0.65m by 0.25m deep) ran north–south downslope. It extended from the eastern edge of the trough. This feature contained three deposits all a result of natural formation and silting.
A small pit (0.92m by 0.9m by 0.32m deep) 3m south of the trough contained two deposits: a grey/brown silt clay and an upper deposit of dark-brown sandy soil with large stones. It appeared to have been deliberately packed and some animal bone was found within the upper deposit. This pit was encircled by nine evenly spaced stake-holes (0.05m in average diameter).
An oval pit, C3 (2.13m by 1.33m by 0.14m deep), was cut on its northern edge by the pit C21 (1.77m by 0.92m by 0.36m deep) 4m south-west of the trough. C3 contained six main deposits, four circular stake-holes (0.05m in average diameter) grey/brown silt clay and an upper deposit of dark-brown sandy soil. All were sealed by the burnt mound.
The pit C21 (1.77m east–west by 0.92m by 0.36m deep) was an irregular oval feature containing six separate deposits and was sealed by the burnt mound. This feature cut C3 on its northern edge. A single stake-hole was located to the north of C21.
An adjacent burnt mound, Gortafricka 1 (see No. 126 above), was discovered 45m to the east of Gortafricka 2.
Jo Nunan, IAC Ltd, 120b Greenpark Road, Bray, Co. Wicklow.
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