1995:022 - Lonehort Harbour, Ardnaragh East, Bere Island, Cork

County: Cork Site name: Lonehort Harbour, Ardnaragh East, Bere Island

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: 95E0159

Author: Colin Breen, Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University, Belfast, and John Sheehan, Dept. of Archaeology, University College, Cork.

Site type: Possible Viking harbour

ITM: E 475277m, N 543869m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 51.633445, -9.801774

A joint archaeological project was undertaken at Lonehort Harbour on Bere Island during the summer of 1995. The project involved a land excavation team from the Dept. of Archaeology at UCC and an underwater survey unit from the Institute of Irish Studies at QUB. The work was sponsored by the 150th Anniversary budget from both of the Queen’s Colleges.

Lonehort is a fantastic natural harbour located at the south-eastern end of Bere Island in Bantry Bay. Placename and local folklore evidence would suggest a Viking connection and a number of features found during the investigation support this. A large artificial breakwater was found at the entrance to the harbour. This was formed by dumping a huge mound of stones on the seabed at the entrance to the harbour. These were quarried from a nearby headland and acted as a wave deflector at the entrance to the site. An early medieval document ‘Adam of Bremen’ refers to a similar practice in Scandinavia during the Viking period. In some cases many mounds of stones were dumped in the approaches to harbour sites. The basal remains of a stone jetty were found inside the harbour extending from the beach. This would have accommodated boats with quite a shallow draught. The jetty was associated with a regular area of beach clearance. The beach clearance led from the low-water mark to an artificial hollow above the high-water mark.

Excavation of this feature revealed that it was a boat naust. A naust is an artificial boat shelter used for the repair or storage of boats. They are of Scandinavian origin and are quite common throughout Viking Scotland. Excavation of the naust revealed a large quantity of stone in the northern half of the structure. This was made up of medium-sized stones, intermixed with several sherds of early modern pottery and a single modern coin. This deposit is likely to be the result of a stone dump from field clearance to the east. This is supported by the presence of cultivation ridges in the stratigraphically later subsoils that run directly up to the eastern edge of the naust cut. A low drystone facing was found at the rear of the naust. Three courses of the facing survived. Behind this facing, and resting on the cut of the naust, a quantity of rubble was found set in loosely packed soil. No finds were located in this deposit. The stone facing appears to have been constructed to prevent slippage of material into the naust. There was no indication of a roof over the structure. The size of the structure indicated that it would have originally accommodated an average-sized coastal boat, probably with a beam of just over 3m. This would correlate with the beam of known coastal traders from Scandinavia. Aerial photographic and early cartographic evidence would suggest that there was an earthen enclosure around the site. A number of interesting cropmarks are also visible.

It is intended to carry out further work on the site as part of a larger research programme on Viking maritime culture in Ireland.