7.2 : Ballinagore, Co. Wicklow 94E0175
Site location: NGR 33151 11743 SMR WI039-035---
Barra Ó Donnabháin
7.2.1: Location map of Ballinagore, Co. Wicklow [OSI]
The cemetery is located on a gentle south-east facing slope, about 140m to the west of the Goldmines River (Fig. 7.2.1). A rectangular stone-lined cist was discovered during the bulldozing of field fences. A limited excavation of the cist was carried out by Mary Cahill of the National Museum of Ireland. This resulted in the recovery of an Early Bronze Age bowl Food Vessel, a stone battleaxe and a flint knife (Plate 7.2.1). Human remains were not found in this cist.
Plate 7.2.1: Bowl Food Vessel, Battle-axe and Flint, Ballinagore, Co. Wicklow
[Barra Ó Donnabháin]
Subsequent excavations carried out by Barra Ó Donnabháin over thirteen weeks between 1994-95 resulted in uncovering of the remains of a portion of a low earthen and stone mound (Plate 7.2.2) that was found to survive under the late nineteenth century field fences. This mound was immediately north and east of the rectangular cist and may originally have covered that structure. An arc of a stone kerb was found within the mound and this incorporated a second, small, rectangular cist containing cremated human bone that had been disturbed (Plate 7.2.3). An undisturbed polygonal cist was found under the mound, 2m north of the first cist discovered. The polygonal cist contained an inverted collared urn with cremated human bone inside while the cist had been packed with charcoal after the urn was inserted. Two more collared urns were found in pits adjacent to these two cists. One had been inverted over a cremation and a second, that contained a small deposit of cremated bone, lay on its side in a pit filled with charcoal. A pit containing an unaccompanied cremation was also found adjacent to the original rectangular cist as were post- and stake-holes. A complex of charcoal-filled pits with charcoal from hazel and willow rods that had been burned in situ was also found. This was concentrated in the area to the south-east of the original cist and may also have originally been covered by the mound that seems to have been mostly removed in the nineteenth century.
7.2.3: Cairn under excavation, Ballinagore, Co. Wicklow
Plate 7.2.2: Cist grave and urn burial under excavation, Ballinagore, Co. Wicklow [Barra Ó Donnabháin]
About 100 sherds of Neolithic pottery were found in the area of the low mound and these represent six round-bottomed shouldered bowls. Many of these sherds came from the construction pit of the first cist uncovered.
Three ring-ditches were found in an arc to the west of the area of the low mound. Two of these were penannular while one was circular. All measured 5-6m in diameter and had shallow U-shaped ditches. The circular example was the most northerly of the three ring ditches and had a cist at its centre. This contained cremated human bone and a poorly executed vase Food Vessel. The middle of the three ring-ditches had a small pit at the centre with charcoal and small fragments of cremated human bone. The third and most southerly of the three ring-ditches was not fully excavated. One pit within this ring ditch was investigated. This was 1m deep and contained charcoal and human bone. A barbed-and-tanged arrowhead was also found in this deposit. The area of this third ring-ditch was inadvertently disturbed subsequent to the excavation and the landowner uncovered a pit with a cremation and a possible vase Food Vessel.
A substantial V-shaped ditch, 3m wide and 2m deep, was found c.16 m east of the low mound. There was nothing to indicate the date or function of this feature and its relationship to the prehistoric site is unclear.
While Early Bronze Age cist graves are accidentally discovered quite frequently, the surrounding area is not always investigated. This excavation provided the opportunity to do this and uncovered a cluster of associated mortuary remains and evidence of a Neolithic presence at the site. This excavation provides an opportunity to examine variability and spatial patterning in mortuary behaviours in an Early Bronze Age cemetery.
Ó Donnabháin, B. 1996 ‘Ballinagore’, In I. Bennett (ed.) Excavations 1995. Wordwell Ltd, Bray.