| 8 September 2005
6000 year-old sites found in Connacht
Between 2000 and 2003 the route of the new Inner Relief Road, from Carraroe to Summerhill College, was subject to the biggest archaeological dig ever performed in Connacht (Ireland). The route was studied for all archaeological interest which was then documented and, as much as possible, preserved.
The findings of the archaeological survey was very interesting and centred around two major sites, the Tonafortes Henge and the Caltragh Prehistoric Settlement. Overseeing the excavation project was Michael MacDonagh, an archaeologist with the National Roads Authority. The results of his teamís findings will be released next year and promise to make for interesting reading.
The Caltragh settlement is located in a small valley in the townland of Caltragh, midway along the new section of road. A number of archaeological features were discovered here, which experts reckon span a period of circa 4000 BCE to 500 BCE.
Mr MacDonagh described it thus: "A stone wall over 100 metres in length formed an arcing open enclosure facing onto an area of bogland, which would most likely have been open water at the time the wall was built. The discovery of a number of small, polished stone axes and some decorated animal bone within the fabric of the wall all suggest a Neolithic date between 4000 BCE and 2500 BCE. A number of human cremation burials were discovered in the valley dating to around 1600 BCE. Two pits contained the cremated remains of an adult individual and analysis of the burnt one from one has determined them to be probably those of a woman who died aged probably between 40 and 50 years old, buried with the remains of her stone bead necklace. Another large pit on the northern edge of the valley contained the cremated remains of a youth, probably aged between 13 and 16 years old at the time of his or her death." The archaeologists also discovered the remnants of three Bronze Age houses dating to the same period as the cremated bodies.
The Tonafortes Henge, a large circular enclosure on flat ground, dates back to between 2500 BCE and 2000 BCE. The southern end of the site was most affected by the new route, although the impact was kept to a minimum by the planners. In the end only 10 percent of the henge was actually excavated. These type of monuments are commonly found associated with passage tombs and are thought to have been ritual centres dating to the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age periods. The survey also found evidence of early Neolithic, Iron Age and early Medieval settlements in Magheraboy.
Source: Sligo Weekender (6 September 2005)
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