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Abstracts

PAPERS

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ANTHONY BEESE (Consulting Geologist, Carraigex Ltd, Cork)

Land-claim using mud in the estuarine environment of medieval Cork, Ireland: studies in stratigraphy and sedimentology

The Hiberno-Norse people used estuarine mud to raise ground levels during the initial development of Cork City. Evidence obtained from a variety of studies has allowed reconstruction of the palaeo- and historical environments. The main sources of information have been archaeological excavations and geotechnical data. The evolving landscape is summarized as, firstly, the underlying, glacio-fluvial, outwash plain; secondly, the intertidal estuary in the early medieval period; and thirdly, the finished `platforms' or areas of land-claim. Studies show that prior to occupation, the landscape consisted of small, reedy islets on the upper mudflat separated by tracts of lower mudflat and channels. The earliest dwellings appear to have been located on the upper mudflat where land-claim was least difficult. Fabrics show that annual layers of introduced mud were placed within fenced plots using manual labour. Thus, in low-lying Cork, the archaeological and geological records are closely linked.

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NÓRA BERMINGHAM AND BENJAMIN GEAREY (University of Birmingham)

Raised mires: complexity, climate change and bog bursts

This paper compares and contrasts recent work (stratigraphic, pollen, testate amoebae, plant macrofossil and radiocarbon dating) on raised mire systems in Ireland (Kilnagarnagh, Tumbeagh) and England (Hatfield and Thorne Moors, east England), with particular reference to the timing and nature of early wetland development and subsequent transitions to ombrotrophy. It illustrates the complexity of such processes within individual systems and assesses the implications of pattern and process in the light of recent theories of raised mire development. The nature of palaeohydrological changes following the development of ombrotrophic conditions is also discussed and the character of any 'climate' signal assessed alongside the arguably under-investigated signal of other processes, such as bog bursts, in such records. 

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FIONA GRANT (Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust)

The Impact of Early Ironworking in the West of Ireland: the Palaeoenvironmental Evidence

Early ironworking activities in the Ballyhaunis region of the west of Ireland and their possible effects upon the environment were examined using archaeological and palaeoenvironmental techniques.  The vegetation and environmental history of five sites was reconstructed using pollen analysis, microscopic charcoal analysis, magnetic susceptibility measurements and peat stratigraphy.  The profiles were radiocarbon dated and cross-matched with dates ascertained from charcoal contained within the slag.

Three chronological periods of ironworking were identified.  Several ironworking processes were identified including ore-roasting, smelting and smithing, and an alternative ore source was suggested. That even small-scale, early ironworking activities caused some local change in the environment was confirmed by this study.  This took the form of changes in the arboreal, shrub and herb taxa of the site and increases in microscopic charcoal and magnetic mineral deposition within the vicinity.  The application of magnetic susceptibilty measurements upon a peat core to record changes in deposition from pre-industrial activities proved generally successful in this study.

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PENNY JOHNSTON & MARY DILLON (Eachtra Archaeological Projects)

Charred environmental remains from three Ringforts in Galway. Preliminary results and comparative studies

Preliminary results of charred plant remains and charcoal analyses from three ringforts in Co. Galway are presented. The sites were excavated by Eachtra Archaeological Projects for Galway County Council and the National Roads Authority in advance of the N6 road scheme. The sites produced samples of macro plant remains and charcoal from a relatively wide range of contexts, including souterrains, hearths, postholes, pits, ditches and industrial firings. Early medieval tillage agriculture is explored under environmental, economic and social headings. Local woodland environments, woodland exploitation and possible wood species selection are examined. The results from each ringfort are discussed individually and collectively, with national comparative studies also considered. The results are also integrated with documentary sources from the period. Sample strategies and post-excavation processes are detailed.

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HELEN LEWIS (School of Archaeology, University College Dublin)

Soil micromorphological applications to sites and landscapes

This paper discusses the results of applications of soil micromorphology to a range of international archaeological contexts, sites and landscapes. These include studies of monuments and features, ancient land use practices, large-scale environmental change, and use of space in caves, on open-air sites and in structures. The aim of the paper is to give a flavour of the multitude of archaeological issues that can be approached through soil micromorphology and geoarchaeology in general, some of which are familiar to Irish archaeology and some that remain to be attempted in an Irish context. The great potential for Irish geoarchaeology to engage with internationally important archaeological issues will also be discussed.

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JACQUI MULVILLE & ADRIENNE POWELL (University of Cardiff)

From Llanmaes to Llangorse: herding and hunting in Early Wales

This talk presents information from three recently (re)analysed Welsh assemblages:

Llanmaes is a Late Bronze Age/Early Iron Age site where excavations have revealed an early roundhouse covered by a later midden with over 10,000 fragments of animal bone recovered to date more than 80% of which were pig, in contrast to similar, contemporary assemblages from southern England. 

Dinas Powys, a hilltop settlement spanning the Early Iron Age to the 11th century, was excavated in the late 1950s and, although a sample of the zooarchaeological data was reported on in 1963 and the full assemblage analysed in the 1980s, we felt the assemblage would benefit from more research.  In particular there were tantalising references to a group of unusually large dogs associated with possible Iron Age deposits.

Llangorse, the only crannog known from Wales and the residence of the royal family of Brycheniog, was constructed c. AD 890-894 and destroyed by the Mercians in AD 916.  The short occupation period of the crannog allows a ?snap shot? of medieval life.  The results compare well with what might be expected from literary evidence for food rents.  The site has also produced the forelimb of a small, bandy-legged dog ? was this the first royal ?corgi??

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ELLEN O CARROLL (Consultant Archaeologist)

Kilns, Furnaces and Pits ? fuel for thought! 


The pace of archaeological work in Ireland does not in general lend itself to research or discussions of wood use and woodland cover in relation to Ireland?s past. The primary aim of charcoal identifications is to determine suitability of material for C14 dating and a secondary aim (which does not always follow) is to determine species selection and the elucidation of Ireland?s woodland history. There have been many excavations and analyses completed recently on kilns, furnaces and pits from this period with little interpretation of the fuel that was used in their operation. The paper will examine recent analyses completed in respect of charcoal samples retrieved from corn-drying kilns, furnaces and charcoal-production pits. The presentation will centre on the different species selected and used for varying functions within these features. The Early Medieval Period will be the main focus. The sampling and recording strategies that can be employed during excavations to get most information from a sampling strategy will also be considered and discussed.

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LORNA O?DONNELL & EOIN GROGAN (Margaret Gowen and Co. Ltd)

The Bronze Age Landscapes of the Gas Pipeline to the West

This lecture will concentrate on recent excavations by Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd along the Gas Pipeline to the West. A variety of Bronze Age sites were encountered, including occupation, funerary and the ubiquitous fulachta fiadh. Case studies will be presented to illustrate the environmental results.  Charcoal analysis noted some distinct trends in wood selection, particularly within cremation deposits and from fulachta fiadh. Plant remains also demonstrated strong trends of probable deposition of seeds in cremation deposits. Pollen and coleopteran analysis were used to attempt to provide an idea of functionality of fulachta fiadh. In addition to some spectacular discoveries the excavations on the Pipeline have made a significant contribution to our understanding of the spatial and chronological patterning of Bronze Age settlement and funerary sites on a local and regional scale. The integrated environmental and archaeological analysis provides new insights into landscape management and environmental change in this period.

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GILL PLUNKETT1, CONOR MCDERMOTT2, GRAEME T. SWINDLES1 & DAVID BROWN1 (1School of Geography, Archaeology & Palaeoecology, Queen?s University Belfast, Belfast BT7 1NN; 2School of Archaeology, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4).

Wetland archaeology in Ireland and the "bigger picture": a critical assessment of the role of environment in determining past wetland activity

After two decades of dedicated survey and excavation, the number of wetland archaeological sites in Ireland now exceeds 3,500, clearly demonstrating that wetlands were an integral part of the past cultural landscape. The application of palaeoenvironmental techniques, including pollen, plant macrofossil, wood identification, coleopteran and testate amoebae analyses, has provided important information about the environmental settings of numerous sites or site complexes. Radiocarbon and dendrochronological data, available for some 300 sites, suggest that wetland activity was not a persistent feature of the prehistoric and medieval periods, but was instead rather episodic. Specific phases of expanded wetland activity have been construed by some as indications of environmental change, correlated variably with shifts to wetter or drier conditions. This paper examines the validity of such interpretations by reviewing the extensive palaeoenvironmental evidence that has been published for wetland sites. Phases of activity are considered in the light of a palaeohydrological record from Northern Ireland raised bogs to determine if climate played any likely role in instigating or impeding the use of wetlands. Alternative theories to explain the phenomenon of wetland activity are also explored.

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EILEEN REILLY (Botany Department, Trinity College, Dublin)

Lessons from Lemanaghan - insights into a dynamic wetland landscape from insect remains analyses 1996-2001

From 1996 to 2001 systematic survey and archaeological excavation took place in the Lemanaghan complex of bogs in County Offaly. The Irish Archaeological Wetland Unit and the wetland excavation unit of Archaeological Development Services Ltd. carried out this work as part of the mitigation strategy for peat milling and extraction by Bord na Mona (O?Carroll 2001). In addition, Dr Nora Bermingham undertook a small research excavation and palaeoenvironmental study focused on the human remains uncovered in Tumbeagh Bog (Bermingham and Delany 2006). 

During this time, the analysis of sub-fossil insect remains formed part of the post-excavation strategy for all major sites and complexes of smaller structures excavated. The sampling strategy was primarily site-focused and except in the case of the Tumbeagh bog body (Reilly 2006) was generally carried out in isolation from other environmental analyses. Nevertheless, important trends were identified in the insect assemblages that were remarkably consistent across sites, individual bogs and the complex as a whole. Changes in the assemblages were reflective of bog development from fen to ombrotrophic peat, the use of the trackways and platforms, proximity to dryland margins and islands etc.

This paper will summarise the salient results of all palaeoentomological work carried out in the Lemanaghan complex during this period, including a discussion of its shortcomings. It will also suggest strategies for better integration of palaeoentomology with other environmental proxies in future wetland landscape research.

References
Bermingham, N. & Delany, M. (2006) The Tumbeagh Bog Body. Wordwell Press Ltd., Dublin. 
O?Carroll, E. (2001) The Archaeology of Lemanaghan: the story of an Irish bog. Wordwell Press Ltd., Dublin.
Reilly, E. (2006) Chapter 14: The insects, the body and the bog, pp. 155-171. In N. Bermingham & M. Delany The Tumbeagh Bog Body. Wordwell Press Ltd., Dublin.

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DAVID EARLE ROBINSON (Archaeological Sciences, English Heritage, Fort Cumberland, Eastney, Portsmouth)

Grauballe Man revisited - new analyses and a reassessment of a bog body from the Danish Iron Age

Grauballe Man was discovered in a Danish peat bog on 26th April 1952. Subsequent analysis and conservation of the find in the course of the 1950s pushed back the boundaries of contemporary archaeological science and conservation techniques. Fifty years on, Grauballe Man has been removed from his display case and again subjected to a wide range of scientific techniques, most of which were unavailable to researchers in the 1950s.

This lecture gives a brief overview of the new work and results obtained, with particular attention focused on a new analysis and evaluation of Grauballe Man's gut contents.

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SCOTT TIMPANY (Headland Archaeology)

Palaeoenvironmental assessment of a wetland site, Newrath, Waterford

A palaeoenvironmental study was undertaken on monolith samples collected from a [reclaimed] wetland site at Newrath, Waterford.  Work was carried out as part of an excavation of a site identified during archaeological assessment prior to the construction of the new N25 Waterford Bypass.   The results presented here are from the assessment phase of the study and further work will progress later on in the year.

Archaeological excavation of the site showed a long period of use with finds ranging from the Later Mesolithic, from the identification of Bann Flakes, to the medieval period from scatters of brushwood.  The most substantial findings were wooden trackways and possible structures dating to the early Bronze Age.  These finds are situated within a series of intercalated peats and estuarine silt layers c. 2.5m in depth.  Palaeoenvironmental evidence from pollen, plant macrofossil, foraminifera and diatom studies shows these deposits accumulated in an increasingly wetland environment, caused by sea-level rise, with a successional sequence of: dry land surface - carr-woodland ? reedswamp ? saltmarsh.

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LUCY VERRILL (University of Edinburgh)

Recent research into settlement continuity and environmental marginality at Belderg Beg, County Mayo

Recent palaeoenvironmental and geoarchaeological investigations at the prehistoric field system at Belderg Beg, North Mayo, have substantially added to what was hitherto known from archaeological evidence.  A combination of on- and off-site investigation strategies included AMS 14C dated sediment stratigraphic analyses, palynology, soil micromorphology and peat humification.

Results show that peat initiation occurred during Early and Middle Neolithic agricultural occupation, when woodland had been subjected to disturbance. The economy was primarily pastoral but with an arable component. Middle Neolithic abandonment occurred several centuries prior to the spread of blanket peat over the fields, and woodland regenerated rapidly. The Bronze Age archaeological remains probably represent several discrete phases of occupation, associated with intensive arable agriculture which included soil amendment strategies, ceasing in the mid-second millennium cal. BP.

As the Neolithic field system at Belderg Beg was apparently smaller and less regular than that at nearby Céide Fields it may represent an economically marginal site. Abandonment occurred during a phase of relative climatic dryness, and soil deterioration and erosion were important factors in the demise of agriculture. The Bronze Age occupation is more difficult to characterise in terms of economy, but the gradual contraction of intensive agriculture suggests that again, soil quality rather than direct climatic shifts was the limiting factor and that the location eventually became environmentally marginal for an economy including significant cereal cultivation.

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POSTERS

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FIONA BEGLANE (Consultant Zooarchaeologist)

Fallow deer as a high status gift in Medieval Co. Roscommon

This poster will review the results of the analysis of the faunal remains recovered during excavations at a High Medieval, Gaelic lordly site at Kilteasheen Townland, Knockvicar, Co. Roscommon.

The mammal bone assemblage from the site included the remains of the usual domestic animals ? cattle, sheep, pig and horse as well as a partial red deer cranium and a fallow deer antler.  Based on stratigraphic and artefactual evidence the fallow deer antler is dated between the mid-13th and mid-14th centuries.  As such this is of interest for two reasons.  Firstly it represents additional archaeological evidence of fallow deer in Ireland.  Secondly, and more significantly, its presence on a Gaelic-held site provides evidence of high-status gift exchange and social interaction with the Anglo-Norman aristocracy who are more usually associated with fallow deer.

The site has been identified during research by Dr Thomas Finan as the location Cil-tSeisin, which is mentioned in the ?Annals of Lough Ce? on a number of occasions between 1243 and 1258.   According to the Annals a ?cuirt? was constructed there in 1253 by Tomaltach O?Conchobhair, (Thomas O? Conor), Bishop of Oilfinn (Elphin) and was demolished in 1258 by Aedh O?Conchobhair (Hugh O?Conor), supposedly to prevent the ?cuirt? falling into the hands of Anglo-Norman raiders.

Investigations on the site are ongoing, but have so far identified a substantial masonry structure, a walled and ditched enclosure, a Medieval graveyard and some evidence for prehistoric activity.  Excavations took place under the direction of Chris Read as part of a project initiated by Dr. Thomas Finan.  Funding has been provided by the Heritage Council, the Royal Irish Academy, the Institute of Technology, Sligo and the American Institute of Irish Archaeology.

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D. BORTHWICK1, T.M. MIGHALL1 AND W.F. O?BRIEN2 (1 Department of Geography and Environment, University of Aberdeen, Elphinstone Road, Aberdeen, AB24 3UF, UK; 2Department of Archaeology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland)

The Iverni Project: Exploring vegetation change during the Late Bronze Age/Iron Age transition in south-west Ireland

The main aim of the Iverni Project is to investigate the Late Bronze Age/Iron Age transition in south-west Ireland. An excavation of a large bivallate enclosure known locally as the Cashel hillfort, situated close to Bandon, suggests that its defences were built around 1200BC, placing this site very early in Irish hillfort chronology. In order to place the hillfort into its environmental context, pollen and microscopic charcoal data is presented from a 1.6m core taken from a valley mire located in the Annagh More Townland, near Bandon, Co. Cork. This poster outlines the major vegetational changes across the LBA-IA transition and discusses the significance of these changes in relation to the Cashel hillfort.

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THOMAS CUMMINS (School of Archaeology; School of Biology and Environmental Science, University College Dublin)

A low-cost, systematic approach to recording retent residues following bucket-flotation of archaeological soil samples for plant macrofossils

Soil samples from dryland archaeological sites are routinely separated by density fractionation using bucket-flotation in water, to extract charred plant macrofossils. The heavy residue, washed over a 2 mm sieve and known as retent, is scanned for artefacts before being discarded. Artefact retrieval continues until declining recovery offsets observation effort. The improvements proposed here allow retent materials to be systematically, rapidly & cheaply characterised. The retent is manually divided into fractions, minimising variation within and maximising that between fractions, without considering artefact status. Every fraction (and thereby every object in the retent) is explicitly described, to a level of detail defined by the operator?s stated confidence. Recording uses a concise, constrained vocabulary appropriate to the fraction, and the operator?s specific skills (here self-defined). Criteria for separating fractions include: material(s); internal structure; breakage & rounding; angularity; shape; evidence for heating, weathering & corrosion. Diagnostic interpretation, and confidence therein, complete the record.

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PENNY JOHNSTON (Eachtra Archaeological Projects)

Slow food in prehistory: charred wild plant remains from north Cork settlement sites

This poster will present the results of charred plant remains analysis from two recently excavated prehistoric house sites in north Cork. The focus is on plants that may have been used as food, but are considered wild plants or weeds today. They included some common material, such as hazelnut shells and seeds from the Knotgrass/Dock family, as well as more unusual charred remains of apple/pear (pips and fragments of the fruit flesh). Hazelnut shells were found in Early Neolithic, Early Bronze Age and Middle Bronze Age deposits, while the apple/pear was primarily recovered from Early Neolithic contexts and Knotgrass/Dock seeds were primarily associated with three Middle Bronze Age houses.

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SUSAN LYONS, SUSAN LALONDE, CARMELITA TROY AND AULI TOURUNEN (Headland Archaeology)

Preliminary results of recent environmental studies on the N6 Galway to Ballinasloe road scheme

Archaeological excavations were carried out by Headland Archaeology Ltd on behalf of Galway County Council along the route of the proposed N6 Galway to Ballinasloe National Road Scheme between September 2005 and May 2006. Eleven sites of archaeological significance were identified and subsequently excavated.

Where appropriate, the post-excavation assessment employed osteological, zoological and palaeobotanical studies to help further understand the function and activities carried out on each site.

Osteological analysis of both human and faunal remains from the multi-phase enclosure at Carrowkeel, Co. Galway, have so far revealed evidence for possible 'shaken-baby syndrome' and Early Medieval sheep breeding.

The preliminary results of a multi-disciplinary study which incorporates cremation analysis and wood charcoal identification from Newford and Deerpark, Co. Galway, is also presented, which suggests whether a ritual significance can be attached to prehistoric pyre technology.

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T.M. MIGHALL1, S. TIMPANY2, J.J. BLACKFORD3, J.B. INNES4, C.E. O?BRIEN5, W. O?BRIEN6 AND S. HARRISON7 (1 Department of Geography and Environment, University of Aberdeen, Elphinstone Road, Aberdeen, AB24 3UF, UK; 2  Headland Archaeology, 13 Jane Street, Edinburgh, EH6 5HE, U.K.; 3 Geography, School of Environment and Development, The University of Manchester, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL, UK;   4 Department of Geography, Durham University, Science Laboratories, South Road, Durham, DH1 3LE, UK; 5 Archaeological Services, Durham University, Science Laboratories, South Road, Durham, DH1 3L, UK; 6Department of Archaeology, University College Cork, Cork, Ireland; 7Department of Geography, University of Exeter, Tremough Campus, Treliever Road, Penryn, Cornwall, TR10 9EZ, UK.

Vegetation change during the Mesolithic and Neolithic in Co. Cork, Southwest Ireland

Despite being rich in archaeology that includes megalithic monuments, Bronze Age copper mines and Medieval castles, the Mizen Peninsula, southwest Ireland, has revealed little about its Stone Age past.  Evidence for a Mesolithic presence in SW Ireland is rare and, to date, all archaeological finds of this age in Co. Cork are further north and east of the Mizen Peninsula. A recent paleoecological study of pollen, non-pollen palynomorph, plant macrofossil and microscopic charcoal data from a peat bog located near Mount Gabriel, however, has provided evidence for disturbances, characterised by fire disturbance of woodland and exploitation of wetlands, since ca 8400 years BP. The woodland disturbances described here, therefore, represent the first possible evidence of Mesolithic colonisation of the Mizen Peninsula.