Archaeological Management Solutions Ltd (AMS) has been appointed by Roadbridge to undertake Archaeological Works for the N4 Collooney to Castlebaldwin Road Development Project at Construction Stage. Since late February a programme of archaeological test excavations, monitoring and subsequent excavations have been ongoing by AMS at locations which were previously unavailable for investigation due to uncleared vegetation/forestry, adverse ground conditions, site character and/or the presence of constraints such overhead ESB services, Eir fibre-optics, waterway exclusion zones and eco-sensitive areas. To date testing has been completed in eleven areas with a resulting eight sites requiring full excavation. Of these eight sites seven produced burnt mounds of potential prehistoric date and one produced a possible cereal drying kin. 

One of these burnt mounds at Tawnagh (pictured below) survived as a huge deposit of heat-fractured stone and charcoal-rich clay. This was found sandwiched between two streams, which would have provided the water required for the functioning of the sites. This site at Tawnagh is the largest excavated on this scheme and indeed perhaps one of the largest in the country

Aerial Images of burnt mounds at Tawnagh

Burnt mounds or fulachta fiadhare visible within the landscape usually in the form of low, grass –covered mounds, which may be horseshoe, crescent, oval or kidney shaped. They are to be found close to streams, lakes, rivers and marshes and sometimes occur in groups. The mounds are generally composed of a heap of fire shattered stones and charcoal that gives it a blackened appearance. They often have a depression to one side, which upon excavation reveals itself to be a trough area. This trough would have held water and can be lined with timber or stone or simply excavated into the natural clay. The trough would have been filled with water and heated stones placed into it, in order to raise the temperature. Joints of meat would then be placed into the trough for it to cook over a number of hours. The stones shattered during this process and when cooled would have been removed and piled next to the trough which would create the characteristic horse-shoe shaped mound. Burnt mounds are the most common type of prehistoric site in Ireland with over 7000 known examples distributed throughout the country. Generally, burnt mounds are Bronze Age in date(2500-650 BC)and traditionally have been interpreted as open air cooking sites, although a number of other activities have been attributed to these sites, including bathing, dyeing, tanning, brewing beer and even saunas and sweathouses.

Excavation has been completed at three of the sites in Ardcurley and Cloonlurg townlands while work is continuing on the remaining sites.

Wooden Trackway/Platform at Castlebaldwin: As part of the mitigation works AMS excavated a portion of a previously identified wooden trackway, part of which was resolved in the pre-construction contracts. It is likely to date to the Bronze Age (2500–800 BC) and comprises a series of very rough wooden trackways set into the peat. These trackways would have functioned as an old road or routeway across wet ground. The tool-marks still survive on the wood and you can see where some wooden elements have been sharpened to points. We also found a number of finds including a possible spindle whorl and a portion of a wooden vessel. In addition to this a flint arrowhead was also found (see below photos) This would have been hafted onto a wooden shaft like in the example attached.

  

Wooden Trackways set into the peat (Bronze Age  2500 -800 BC)

  

Flint Arrowhead