Eachtra Journal

ISSN 2009-2237

Early Bronze Age pit and burnt mound at Mitchelstown, Co. Cork

May, 2011 · Written by: Eachtra Print This Page This entry is part 32 of 37 in the Issue 10

Archaeological Excavation Report

Early Bronze Age pit and burnt mound

The recording of three Early Bronze Age pots within a small pit is a very significant find. There are no parallels for the two small pots, one of which was decorated to represent a human face or body. The pit containing the pottery was located on the northern bank of the Gradoge River on the western fringe of the road corridor, it is possible that further archaeological features are located to the west. The pit maybe associated with the burnt mound. The radiocarbon date returned for the pottery would overlap with Early Bronze Age dates returned for Fulachta Fiadh in Stagpark 3 (04E1119), located 2200m to the south, and are almost identical to dates returned for Early Bronze Age activity in Stagpark 1 (04E1120), located 1400m to the south.
There are 16 Bronze Age burials, comprising cist burials, Food Vessel burials, Urn burials and pit burials, recorded within a 13 km radius of the site. The burials are generally located on low-lying ground between 60 m and 100 m OD. Some are located within 500 m of the Funshion River and its tributaries, the Sheep River, the Tooraleagan River and the Gradoge River. Generally, Early Bronze Age burials tend to be concentrated in low-lying areas such as valley floors, while the associated settlement sites are probably located on higher ground along the valleys (Cooney & Grogan 1999, 103). While the majority of graves contain the remains of one individual, multiple burials, either collective or successive, also occurred. The majority of the Cordoned Urns are associated with burials and the simple pit grave is the commonest type (Waddell 2000, 149).
The Mitchelstown pit and pottery group shares some characteristics of Early Bronze Age burial practices in terms of the low-lying location in the river valley, the simple form of the pit itself, and the deposition of the Cordoned Urn. However, many aspects are very different. The creation of a face and human features on Vessels 2 and 3, the positioning of the ears, anatomically incorrect, on both vessels and the inclusion of a spoon are all unusual. In addition, despite the inclusion of a Cordoned Urn - usually a funerary vessel, there was no evidence of burial recorded at the site. The deposition therefore points away from burial and towards other ritual, for instance libation to a deity. It is also possible that this pit does not exist in isolation and other archaeological features, including burials, may be located in the area to the west, beyond the edge of the road corridor.

Authors: Jacinta Kiely and Bruce Sutton

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