As part of a limited programme of metal-detector survey on the site of the Battle of the Boyne, twenty small test-pits were excavated in a panel which had been previously surveyed by metal detection by a UCD team. The validity of metal-detection results at this site could not be tested at the time, as there was a ban on fieldwork due to a foot-and-mouth outbreak. To test the results of the earlier work, ten pits were to be excavated in zones of low hits identified in the 2001 report, and ten pits in zones of high hits, and the results contrasted.
The test-pits were excavated using a mini-digger fitted with a small ditching bucket, which deposited the soil in spits, to be searched by eye by the archaeologist. This search recovery of artefacts was compared to retrieval using a metal detector, to follow the initial manual recovery.
The results were disappointing, with only one lead musket ball retrieved. The majority of the finds were ferrous and random/late in date. Significantly, a sherd of lead-glazed stoneware of 16th-century date was located by metal detector.
Of the trenches which indicated low hits, two, Trenches 5 and 6, produced metal finds. Of the trenches which indicated high hits, five had metal finds. These included a metal spike, a horseshoe nail and a musket shot, which may well have been battle-derived. It was clear from the trenching, however, that the incidence of finds throughout the soils is low. This is despite the use of the northern part of the field as a potato plot, which would have ensured continuous manuring in the recent period. This generally includes farmyard material, including crockery sherds.
Claire Walsh, 27 Coulson Avenue, Dublin 6.
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