Eachtra Journal

ISSN 2009-2237

An iron working site at Caherweelder 7, Co. Galway (E3826)

October, 2010 · Written by: Eachtra Print This Page This entry is part 10 of 23 in the Issue 08

Archaeological Excavation Report

Iron working site

This report constitutes the final excavation report on an Iron Age smithing hearth or smelting furnace in the townland of Caherweelder in south Galway (Fig 1). The site was excavated as part of the archaeological excavation programme in advance of construction of the N18 Gort to Oranmore road scheme. The site was discovered during Phase 1 archaeological testing of the new route under Ministerial Directions A045 (E3826).

The excavation of a charcoal-rich layer atop a gravel ridge at Caherweelder revealed an ironworking hearth or furnace which produced two Iron Age dates. A single chert piece, identified as a possible hone stone, was found, and along with a small but varied animal bone assemblage, including cattle, pig, sheep/goat and red deer may represent detritus from a broad time span. Charcoal analysis identified that a range of species were collected for ironworking with alder dominating one lower layer and charcoal from hawthorn/apple-type dominating a higher layer of the ironworking pit. The two radiocarbon dates acquired for the site revealed dates tightly clustered in the Iron Age period (cal BC 85–80 – cal AD 54–59; cal BC 91–69 – cal AD 36–52).

It is hypothesized that the main factor affecting the location of the newfound sites in Caherweelder was the proximity to fuel. Both burnt mounds and this Iron Age ironworking site have high fuel requirements. The charcoal identifications from all sites in Caherweelder indicate the presence of a mixed deciduous scrub cover, involving a mosaic of species including hazel and willow with ash and other species present. Repeated cutting of the woodland for fuel would have resulted in adventitious coppicing.

Authors: Linda Hegarty

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