2005:AD5 - CASTLEFARM 1, CASTLEFARM, Meath

County: Meath Site name: CASTLEFARM 1, CASTLEFARM

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number: A017/001

Author: Aidan O’Connell, Archaeological Consultancy Services Ltd, 21 Boyne Business Park, Greenhills, Drogheda.

Site type: Enclosure complex

ITM: E 700304m, N 741624m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.415193, -6.491147

The site at Castlefarm 1, located a short distance south-west of Dunboyne on the R157 Dunboyne–Maynooth road on the proposed M3 Dunboyne link road south, was excavated as part of Contract 1 (Dunboyne to Dunshaughlin) of the planned M3 Clonee to North of Kells motorway scheme. It was initially identified through a number of magnetic anomalies of probable archaeological origin during a geophysical survey undertaken by Bartlett-Clark Consultancy in 2002. In 2004 a programme of centre-line testing undertaken by Robert O’Hara on behalf of Meath County Council confirmed the existence of archaeological deposits in the form of numerous pits, spreads and ditches of probable medieval date (Excavations 2004, No. 1198, 04E0485). Excavation commenced on 1 November 2005 and to date has identified an early medieval bivallate enclosure.
The site occupies a low natural ridge that extends east–west across the proposed road-take. The elevated area of this ridge is enclosed by a series of ditches initially constructed in the early medieval period. Three elements to the enclosure have been recorded in the course of the excavations; an inner enclosure ditch, an outer enclosure ditch and a southern enclosure annex.
Inner enclosure ditch
The inner enclosure ditch follows the brow of the elevated ridge. Approximately half of this ditch (c. 123m along its circumference) lies within the proposed land-take. It is a subcircular feature (60–70m in diameter) with a causewayed entrance at the south-west, whereas entrances to Irish earthwork enclosures of this period are usually aligned to the south-east. The ditch measured 2m wide by 1.35m deep to the east of the entrance; however, it was significantly narrower and shallower (1–1.4m wide by 0.4–0.8m deep) west of the causeway. This difference may be explained by the fact that the ditch was cut through compact, stony boulder clay in the western area and, although it was cut through softer boulder clay further north, the dimensions remained consistent, although it did deepen to 1.2m in the north-east. The south-western section of the inner ditch was recut in the medieval period.
Outer enclosure
The outer enclosure ditch has been excavated at the south of the site. At the west and north of the site it remains unexcavated and partially under ploughsoil. The excavated portion of the outer enclosure is c. 47m long, 2.2m wide and 1m deep. Numerous early-medieval artefacts were recorded from the fills of this ditch. In addition, some rubbish pits were cut into the top of the outer enclosure. A possible entrance was recorded at the south-west, opposite the early medieval causeway. At this point the outer enclosure narrowed significantly and was filled by small and medium-sized stones, creating an artificial causeway.
Enclosure annexe
An annexe was added to the south of the enclosure in the early medieval period. This measured 30m (east–west) by 20–25m and was formed by a curving ditch, two sections of which have been excavated. The annexe was cut away by a later medieval ditch at the south-west. At the south-east it is covered by ploughsoil. The finds assemblage from the enclosure annex was confined to the eastern ditch and, although not as rich as the main enclosure, it did produce a copper alloy ringed pin and some bone pins.
Remainder of site
A rich finds assemblage has been recovered from the early medieval deposits on the site, including tanged iron blades, bone fibula pins, worked antler, glass beads, lignite bracelets, spindle whorls, and both complete and incomplete ringed pins.
Eight burials have been recorded at the south-west of the site. One of these was located within the inner enclosure ditch at the south-east terminal, adjacent to the causewayed entrance. The remaining seven were located south of the inner enclosure. All of these burials were supine and orientated east–west, suggesting a Christian burial rite. The burial posture in some cases suggests that they were buried in a shroud, but no associated bone or metal pins or other grave goods were recovered. Significantly two of the burials were recorded along the south-western entrance to the early medieval enclosure, between the inner and outer ditches. This suggests that these seven burials may date to a later (?medieval) phase of site occupation.
The site excavations are due to be completed in autumn 2006.