| 1 September 2004
Neolithic homes unearthed in Northern Ireland
A cemetery of eight early Bronze Age ring ditch barrow cremation burials, dating to 1800 BC, have been excavated and recorded, following three months of work by 12 archaeologists, is one of a number of prehistoric settlements that have been discovered in County Down (Northern Ireland). Neolithic homes, which date to 4000 BCE, were also uncovered by archaeologists along the A1 road near Newry. Evidence from the excavation is being preserved before work begins on upgrading the road at Loughbrickland.
Head archaeologist Kevin Beachus said the find, which he described as "significant" was far more then his team expected. "We didn't expect quite so rich a find, we knew there would be something there or supposed there would be, but we had no idea it was going to be as wealthy as it is. The three neolithic houses which are about 6,000 years old, there are perhaps 30 maybe 35 in the entire UK known. We have got three of them, so they are very important," he said. "The burials have been buried inside bronze age pots, each pot is buried in the centre of a circle or a ditch and then that is filled over the top." Mr Beachus added. The stones packed into the foundation trenches suggest a plank construction. Timber from the foundation trenches will be used to carbon date the structures.
Among the findings are a number of stake holes associated with a hearth and pits, evidence of precious metal working in the form of a small crucible, and Bronze Age pottery fragments. The funerary pots recovered from ring ditches have been delivered to Environment and Heritage Services, for cleaning, conservation and possible reconstruction. Cremated bone fragments from the burials have been dried and are being examined by experts at Queen's University Belfast.
The archaeologists, which were brought onto the site by the Roads Service, have only a few days to collect their findings before work begins on the project. "I'm afraid the road is going to be bulldozing its way straight through the site in the next few days," said Mr Beachus.
Sources: BBC News, Belfast Telegraph (31 August 2004)
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