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Laurence Dunne Archaeology,
3, Lios na Lohart, Ballyvelly,
Tralee, Co. Kerry, Ireland

Sep 24, 2014

2014 Season of Excavation at Caherconnor Stone Fort

2014 Season of Excavation at Caherconnor Stone Fort

We are currently undertaking an excavation of the interior of Clochán 2 in Caherconnor-Cathair na gConchúrach in advance of remedial works by the Office of Public Works (OPW) to the upper courses of this corbelled structure otherwise known as a beehive hut. The work is being undertaken on behalf of the OPW under the auspices of the National Monuments Service and with Ministerial Consent.

Caherconnor is an early medieval caher (cathair) or cashel (caiseal) in the townland of Glanfahan on the southernmost limits of the tip of the Dingle Peninsula. The aspect from the site which is situated on a bumpy terrace on the lower slopes of Mount Eagle-Sliabh an Iolar is breathtaking, comprising an expansive maritime vista across Dingle Bay set to a backdrop of the MacGillicuddy Reeks of the Iveragh Peninsula to the south-east while Valentia and the Skelligs are clearly visible to the south with the Blasket Islands peeking out around Slea Head to the west. A little upslope is the nearby stone fort of Caher na Mártíneach, as well as the many clocháns, stone walls, trackways and ancient routeways-all of which are clearly visible. This is, perhaps, the most visually stunning, densely packed and easily understood archaeological / cultural palimpsest in Ireland. The density of clocháns here prompted writers and scholars to refer to the adjoining townlands of Glanfahan and Fahan as the ‘City’. Between the two townlands alone there is a remarkable total of 320 recorded archaeological sites that must rank as the most archaeologically populated area in Ireland if not in Western Atlantic Europe.

Much of the archaeology of the area appears to reflect the early medieval period. However communities of people have been living on the tip of the Dingle Peninsula since the late Mesolithic Period (Middle Stone Age). Other prehistoric sites include at least three Bronze Age wedge tombs between Ventry and Dunquin as well as several standing stones and a scatter of ring-barrows testament to continual settlement here throughout prehistory.

Caherconnor was examined and surveyed by a number of antiquarians and archaeologists in the latter half of the 19th century. The contributions of G.V. DuNoyer and R.A.S. Macalister are of particular relevance as they both completed ground plans while DuNoyer also undertook several sketches in his own inimical style. More recently Caherconnor was surveyed and published by Judith Cuppage in the Dingle Peninsula Archaeological Survey in 1986.

Caherconnor is a sub-circular stone fort that includes within its interior a complete free standing clochán as well as a courtyard complex that comprises a rectangular enclosure attached by a passageway to a large clochán at its western limits. Built against the south-west angle of the rectangular enclosure is third clochán. Intra-mural souterrains are recorded within the thickness of the caher with access to the southern souterrain from the largest beehive hut-Clochán 2.

Cahers also known as caiseals comprise the stone variety of the more widespread earthen ringforts that are common throughout Ireland. These monuments were essentially dispersed rural farmsteads of the Early Medieval or Early Christian period.

Overview of excavation of Clochán 2, Caherconnor

Overview of excavation of Clochán 2, Caherconnor

Caherconnor Stone Fort , Dingle Peninsula

Caherconnor Stone Fort , Dingle Peninsula

May 14, 2014

May 2014 update

May 2014 update

Above and below images: the glorious side of archaeological excavation in Ireland!
Excavation of a fulacht fiadh at Crag, Currans, Co. Kerry.

The weather in the first quarter of the year had devastating effects on our fragile coastal archaeological sites. So far this year has taken us from a number of stormy beaches to the exposed windswept rain drenched hills of Kerry. We have been involved in the assessment and protection of coastal marine sites and the retrieval and preservation of associated artefacts. A major focus of our work related to the shipwreck of the schooner Sunbeam on Rossbehy Strand.

Out in the field archaeological monitoring, graveyard surveys and test excavations are on-going. While back at our facility in Tralee recording and conservation of artefacts including the Aud anchors is continuing.

Our season of work at Caherconnor on Slea Head, West Kerry has commenced and Cloghaun 3 is currently being re-constructed. Hopefully the weather will be as kind to us as in previous years.

Archaeological and wider cultural tours on land and around the coast are planned for the summer season which should be an exciting addition to our increasing number of services.

We are beginning another phase of graveyard surveys that should greatly increase interest from a community and wider genealogical research level. This is currently being rolled out so watch this space!

Our new images show the glamorous side of undertaking archaeological excavations in our balmy Irish climate – swimming around in mud excavating a burnt mound. It’s not all swords and chalices but of equal cultural significance! This type of site is known in Ireland as a fulacht fiadh and generally date to the Bronze Age. Another site that we excavated nearby in 2004 returned radiocarbon dates from the middle and late Bronze Age, roughly between 1500 BC to 600BC.

These sites are otherwise known as burnt mounds and largely comprise of a large mound of discarded heat shattered stone and charcoal enriched soil. The mound is formed over a long period of time by successive removal and discarding of shattered stone fragments from a large water trough. Essentially communities in prehistory heated stones that they took from a nearby stream and fire reddened them before throwing them into a trough of water to heat it. In this hot stone technology process the stones regularly shatter on immersion and need to be cleaned out. Overtime the cleaning out of the trough builds into a mound that can sometimes be massive in size. The trough that we excavated in Crag was constructed of split oak planks set on edge and supported by roughly squared oak stakes hewn to a point with an adze and driven deeply into the boulder clay at the corners of the trough. The floor of the trough was remarkably made from a single oak plank.

Excavations of fulachta fiadh are not for the faint hearted and require much resilience and determination as these sites are mainly found in very wet poor marshy land as they required a lot of water and a lot of stone.

Post excavation work is currently underway relating to this site and we will possibly feature more information on it in the near future. The excavation of the fulacht fiadh took place recently in Crag townland, Currans, Co. Kerry.

 Overhead view of oak lined fulacht fiadh trough. Note remains of possible oak bench or seat beside

Overhead view of oak lined fulacht fiadh trough. Note remains of possible oak bench or seat beside

The oak planked trough of the fulacht fiadh under excavation.

The oak planked trough of the fulacht fiadh under excavation.

Jan 13, 2014

Sunbeam Shipwreck, Rossbehy Beach,Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry.

Sunbeam Shipwreck, Rossbehy Beach,Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry.

A recent violent storm ripped the shipwreck of the Sunbeam that had been lying buried deep in the sand for over 100 years and cast it like a rag doll against the dunes some 400m away. The Underwater Archaeology Unit of the National Monuments Service engaged Laurence Dunne Archaeology to undetake an urgent evaluation of the wreck last Friday. Interestingly, this is one of my favourite sites and I have visited it many times over the years. It has featured largely on our website in the past and indeed was also included in our 2013 calendar.

Arriving onsite at Rossbehy on Friday was a shock as the entire carpark, access road etc was almost entirely destroyed and under hundreds of tons of stone cast up by the storm that entirely blocked off the beach to all vehicles. As we set off on what is usually a 20 minute walk to the wreck we started to find many of the ship's timbers that had been washed in on the tide. Several of them were so large that we had to ask visitors to help lift them to safety. It took over 2.5 hours in the end to reach the wreck because of the number of timbers that we had to recover from the tide.
The wreck itself had been seriously impacted by the storm with the entire bow section missing. I later discovered an articulated section of the bow about a mile further away. Today we removed as many of the detached timbers and other artefacts that we could find and brought them to our conservation facility in Tralee for recording and safety. The Sunbeam is now in a precarious situation lodged at the base of a high unstable sand dune that poses both a hazard to visitors and to the wreck.
We have established a control perimeter around the wreck and posted warning signs for visitors. At present we are undertaking a condition report for the UAU that will address all of the options for the short term as well as the long term issues with regard to this amazing shipwreck.

See our facebook page for more images.

Nov 3, 2013

Lecture by Laurence Dunne in Tralee Library 5 November at 7.30 pm

Lecture by Laurence Dunne in Tralee Library 5 November at 7.30 pm

Kerry Historical and Archaeological society have invited Laurence Dunne to give a lecture on the the recovery and conservation of artefacts from the Cunard liner RMS Lusitania and the gun-running ship The Aud.

Aug 28, 2013

Summer 2013

Summer 2013

Photo: 'The City' loop Paps Mountains,Co. Cork

We are coming to the end of a busy summer season that encompassed a diverse range of archaeological projects including cultural heritage tours, upland impact assessments of proposed walking routes, intra-riverine surveys, third season of excavation at Caherconnor cashel, near Dingle.

We have completed conservation of the RMS Lusitania artefacts. These artefacts have now been collected by the owner.Conservation of the Aud anchors continues.

The first lecture in the Gathering series of lectures by the National Monuments Service was also undertaken in Tralee Museum and was very successful.
At present we are mobilising for another season of work on the Rutland Island Shipwreck at Burtonport, Co. Donegal which will extend into the second week of September.

Jul 10, 2013

Connected by the Sea. First National Monuments Service Gathering lecture in Tralee, July 2013

Connected by the Sea. First National Monuments Service Gathering lecture in Tralee, July 2013

The first lecture in the National Monuments Service series of Gathering lectures 'Connected by the Sea-Links through time from Smerwick to Kerryhead ' took place in the Kerry County Museum in Tralee on Monday night the 8th of July. Minister Jimmy Deenihan opened the lecture and spoke warmly and passionately about North Kerry and its ancient past. This, the first lecture of five, was very well attended especially given the very warm weather

The opening talk, given by Laurence Dunne, dealt with 'Nameless People-an archaeological overview of Tralee Bay's maritime links through local sites and unknown peoples'. It included an overview of underwater and coastal sites from the late mesolithic period to the post medieval period with a focus on people through time whose names we do not know but who lived and died in Tralee Bay.

The second talk, 'Named People-Ardfert and links through time' was presented by Fionnbarr Moore, senior archaeologist of the National Monuments Service. Fionnbarr's lecture focussed on life and death, continuity and trade as well as the various phases of its development.

The Minister also expressed his support for a conference or seminar on the rich maritime coastal and underwater archaeology of Tralee Bay and Kerry in general in the near future.

For details about the forthcoming Gathering lectures by the National Monuments Service go to www.archaeology.ie

May 7, 2013

98th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Lusitania off the Old Head of Kinsale 7th May 1915

At 2.10 pm on the afternoon of the 7th May 1915 the Cunard liner RMS Lusitania was struck on the starboard side near the bridge with a torpedo fired from U-20. Almost immediately after impact the Lusitania shuddered from the effects of a second massive explosion. By 2.30pm the Lusitania sank with the extraordinary loss of 1201 passengers and crew in only 18 minutes.

In 2011 Laurence Dunne Archaeology provided the archaeological expertise for an expedition jointly undertaken by National Geographic Channel and F. Gregg Bemis Jnr., owner of the wreck, to try to determine the cause of the 2nd explosion.

No significant artefacts were recovered at the time. However a subsequent continuance in late August 2011 did recover six significant artefacts that were conserved in our facility in Tralee in association with York Archaeological Trust. The artefacts included two round portholes, two windows from the 1st Class cabins, a tell-tale and a telemotor. The conservation of the artefacts is now complete and they have been returned to their owner Gregg Bemis.

Minister for the Arts, Heritage & the Gaeltacht, Jimmy Deenihan, recently met with Gregg Bemis to discuss his offer of presenting some of these artefacts to the State.

Mar 12, 2013

Tylagh Windfarm, Stacks Mountains, Co. Kerry

Tylagh Windfarm, Stacks Mountains, Co. Kerry

Archaeological impact assessments with regard to wind turbine developments have been an increasing aspect of our work over the last number of years. This trend has continued through 2012 and into 2013.

Image shows a fine dramatic panorama of the Vale of Tralee from Tylagh Windfarm during recent archaeological testing for an extension to the windfarm.

Jan 18, 2013

2012 very busy year for graveyard surveys

2012 very busy year for graveyard surveys

Every year we have undertaken a tranche of graveyard surveys. 2012 was a particularly busy year in this regard. In all 21 were completed and submitted. Currently we are completing the survey of Ratass cemetery which is the largest graveyard in Kerry and the main burial place for Tralee town the capital of Kerry. Ratass is a particularly interesting graveyard in that it dates from the early medieval(early Christian) period that basically demonstrates that Ratass has been in use from around the 8th century AD.

In the south-east area of the graveyard are the ruins a very fine medieval church displaying antae as well as a trabeated doorway on the west gable. While an Ogham stone and cross slab are situated within the church.

Ratass is a wonderful gem of a site whose importance is generally not known or appreciated. Indeed much of Tralee's population are unfamiliar with it or don't know that it exists at all!

Nov 20, 2012

Sep 13, 2012

Caherconnor cashel , West Kerry.

Caherconnor cashel , West Kerry.

A very busy summer for us all here . Work varied from excavations and shipwrecks which took us from West Cork to Donegal. Current Kerry Graveyards survey progressed well despite often adverse weather. Conservation of marine artefacts continues. Another Lusitania event this Fri. 14th September in The Port of Cork with the Irish premiere of the National Geographic documentary.

Above phase two of the works at Caherconnor cashel voted one of the best places ever to work by the team -on a sunny day !

Church Island, South Kerry

Church Island, South Kerry