1998:503 - BETTYSTOWN, Meath

County: Meath Site name: BETTYSTOWN

Sites and Monuments Record No.: SMR 21:10 Licence number: 98E0072

Author: James Eogan, Archaeological Development Services Ltd, Windsor House, 11 Fairview Strand, Fairview, Dublin 3.

Site type: Prehistoric/multi-period site

ITM: E 715526m, N 773218m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.695874, -6.250606

This site is part of a low ridge overlooking the sea just south of the village of Bettystown. Excavations in the late 1970s by Eamonn Kelly on an adjoining site uncovered an Early Bronze Age cist and an inhumation cemetery of 6th-century AD date (JIA 4, 1987-8, 75). A total of 27 test-trenches were excavated on this site by Roseanne Meenan, in response to a condition in the planning permission granted for a mixed residential and commercial development (see No. 502 above). Human remains were found in two of the trenches, and consequently the National Monuments Service required hand-excavation of two specified areas and monitoring of all groundworks associated with this scheme.

Three main phases of archaeological activity were identified on this site, the archaeological features being all concentrated on the top of the ridge.

Timber circle
A total of 27 post-pits formed a circular structure 7.6m x 6.5m (externally). There was an entrance defined by four large pits on the south-east side of the structure; four internal pits were found. Each of the pits held a single upright wooden post. Finds from the fill of the pits include a considerable amount of struck flint, the predominant artefact type being end-scrapers, grooved ware-type pottery, animal bone (burnt and unburnt) and seashells.

Early Bronze Age flat cemetery
Nine graves (two short, one polygonal and one rectangular cist, and five pits) were found c. 40m south-west of the timber circle. They contained nine inhumations and one cremation burial. Four of the inhumations (one teenage girl and three children) were associated with food vessels. The other burials were three children, a middle-aged female and two adult males, one of whom had been cremated, in the same grave. The burials were confined to an area c. 8m x 8m; no evidence was found of a covering mound or any other above-ground marker; there is stratigraphic evidence of at least two phases of burial.

1st millennium AD inhumation cemetery
A total of 55 inhumation burials were found in a linear cemetery that extended along the top of the ridge. Most were extended inhumations, oriented west-east (heads at the west), buried in simple, subrectangular, stone-lined pits that had been dug into the underlying sand and gravel deposits. Three of the burials were contained within lintel graves; six were found in slab-lined graves. None of the burials were accompanied by grave-goods. Apart from three cases the graves were not intercut; the timber circle had been cut by three of these graves.

Two crouched inhumations were found in simple pit graves. One, a child, was found within the timber circle, it cut one of the post-pits; the second, a young adult female, was c. 25m west of the other; a large rock had been placed on her abdomen during burial.