Monitoring was carried out at Prioryland, Duleek, in October 2008 under a licence issued to Richard Clutterbuck (see No. 952 above, 07E0927). The work was carried out in connection with the Meath bundled wastewater collection system. It revealed a number of archaeological features in proximity to the River Nanny. As a result, a second licence was obtained to allow investigation of the archaeological features identified. The excavation was carried out between 24 November and 19 December 2008. A cutting was opened within the proposed wayleave, encompassing a total area of c. 430m2.
A series of archaeological features was identified, either within or adjacent to a palaeochannel which was also examined as part of the excavation. This palaeochannel is likely to have been a former course of the River Nanny. The most significant features identified included a cache of flint flakes (containing 171 pieces of worked flint) hidden in a basal fill of the palaeochannel and covered by a flat stone, and two hearths located on the southern bank of the palaeochannel. These hearths appeared to have been a focus for Bronze Age activity, with a range of struck flints, debitage and some scrapers recovered in their vicinity as well as a number of pieces of probable Bronze Age pottery and some fragments of burnt bone. The flint cache is also likely to date to the Bronze Age, although it is not yet known if it is contemporary with the two hearths.
Following the silting over of this phase of activity, the area along the southern bank of the palaeochannel later became the location for a brief phase of burnt-mound or burnt-spread-type activity. Apart from a spread of burnt stones and charcoal, no further features associated with this phase of activity were identified. At some point following the abandonment of the burnt mound further episodes of alluvial activity saw the palaeochannel become completely silted up. Presumably the ground was often waterlogged following this clogging of the palaeochannel and this may help to explain the final phase of activity – the digging of two ditches, which appear to have been drainage related. It is likely that these ditches date to the late medieval or post-medieval period, although no proof of this was recovered.
The finds recovered from the excavation included 85 sherds of Bronze Age pottery (including a rim sherd of probable cordoned urn) and 226 worked lithics (flint and quartz). Samples were also retrieved of animal bone, burnt bone and preserved organic material: wood and hazelnut shells. A series of samples were also taken for pollen analysis from within the fills of the palaeochannel. Analysis of the samples and finds will allow for a more thorough interpretation of this site in the near future.
Ed Lyne, for Cultural Resources Development Services Ltd, Unit 4, Dundrum Business Park, Dundrum, Dublin 14.
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