Glencurran Cave, Tullycommon
Excavations took place in Glencurran Cave over seven weeks in 2004 and 2005 funded by the DEHLG (Excavations 2004, No. 183, 04E0432, and Excavations 2005, No. 163, 05E0379). In 2008 two further weeks of excavation funded by the RIA and the DEHLG took place. A series of Late Bronze Age votive deposits had previously been encountered in Area IV, c. 45m from the cave entrance.
This trench was extended in 2008 and similar material was encountered, including 36 human bones, perforated seashells, sherds of Late Bronze Age pottery, a bone pin, perforated dog/wolf incisor, worked bone and an assemblage of 6,217 animal bones which was dominated by newborn, juvenile and immature sheep. Two bones from two different children, found in Area IV, were sent to the University of Mainz, Germany, for ancient DNA analysis: Glencurran Cave is now the first site in Ireland where ancient DNA has been extracted from prehistoric human remains. A series of pits were also encountered, some of which may have been created by animals such as badgers, while others represent the extraction of calcite-rich clays which were used in the construction of a cairn in Area III. The cairn occurs 17m from the cave at the point where the inward sloping passage ends and the level cave floor begins. Human bones, a stone axe, amber beads, bone beads and perforated seashells were found on the cave floor at the base of the structure in 2004.
In 2008 it was decided to investigate the structure itself. It comprises a semicircular stone wall that was built against the cave and the interior was filled with a series of calcite-rich deposits, some of which came from Area IV. A human clavicle and small bronze ring were found in one fill. The lower part of the structure has not yet been excavated.
Marion Dowd, School of Science, Institute of Technology Sligo.
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