Eachtra Journal

ISSN 2009-2237

N18 Oranmore-Gort, Co. Galway

January, 2009 · Written by: Finn Delaney Print This Page This entry is part 1 of 34 in the Issue 01

Eachtra Archaeological Projects
for Galway County Council and the National Roads Authority
Engineers – Hyder Tobin Consultants

Archaeological and historical background
Phase 1


Phase 2

Excavated Sites
Project Team


N18 OG Project location

N18 OG Project location

The project is an approved road development, having been approved by An Bórd Pleanála on 7th June 2007. The development will consist of approximately 27.2 km of dual carriageway, and all associated works.
The proposed scheme consists of:

  • 27.2 km of standard dual two-lane carriageway;
  • 8.7 km of realigned local roads;
  • 16.9 km of accommodation works access tracks.
  • Three grade separated interchanges at Rathmorrissey, Kiltiernan and Gort
  • Nineteen road bridges
  • Two river bridges (over the Clarinbridge and Dunkellin Rivers)
  • One railway bridge
  • Four accommodation bridges
  • Four accommodation underpasses

The area of proposed archaeological investigations lies within the footprint of the proposed scheme as defined by the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) published by Galway County Council on 1st August 2006.


Eachtra Archaeological Projects were commissioned to provide archaeological services in three Phases

Phase 1 – Surveys, Test Excavations and Reporting

Phase 2 – Full Excavation of significant archaeological features or deposits discovered during the phase 1 works

Phase 3 – Post-excavation analyses and the production of illustrated reports fit for publication


N18OG Subsoil

N18OG Subsoil

The underlying geology is Carboniferous limestone of the Burren and Tubber formations.

Namurian shales and sandstones to the west in Clare and Devonian Old Red sandstone to the east in the Slieve Aughty uplands.

Glacial till overlies the bedrock to varying depths (0–5 m) and the soils derived from the till are generally shallow brown earths. The thin limestone enriched topsoil makes relatively good grass pasture, which is the predominant landuse in this area today.

Some areas of low-lying grasslands, peat bogs, eskers, low rounded drumlins and karst limestone pavements

The height above sea level varies from less that 10 m to 40 m OD.

Archaeological and historical background

The Archaeological Inventory of County Galway lists over 7100 known monuments (Conroy 1988, OPW 1993, 1). South County Galway contains a high proportion of the total number of sites recorded in the county overall.

There has most likely been continuous settlement in south County Galway since the end of the last glaciation, however no examples of Mesolithic occupation have been so far identified in south Galway.

There are some examples of Neolithic tombs, but no evidence of settlement.

There is a high concentration of Bronze Age barrows in east Galway and numerous examples of burnt mounds in the vicinity of this road scheme.
Early medieval ringforts and cashels are the most numerous monument type in this landscape and are recognized in placenames by the elements lios, rath, caher or dún.

The Uí Fiachrach Aidne was the dominant clan or faction in early medieval south Galway until the establishment of the Hiberno-Norman Lordship of Connacht by Richard de Burgo in the 1230s.

Phase 1




  • to establish the character significance and extent of any archaeological features finds or deposits revealed;
  • recommend sites for further excavation at phase 2.

All work at phase 1 followed recommendations made by EIS for the scheme:

  • Desk based study
  • Earthwork surveys x 14
  • A building survey x 1
  • Townland boundary Surveys x 31
  • A watercourse survey including metal detecting x 1
  • Test excavation by hand x 10
  • Test excavation by machine:
    • at geophysical anomalies x 19 (geophysical survey undertaken by Minerex Geophysics Ltd)
    • adjacent to recorded or suspected monuments x 10
  • Centre line testing by machine in all other areas (162,263 m²)
  • Field walking - Several areas completely overgrown with hazel and underlain with bare limestone karst could not be tested by machine. As an alternative, field-walking and map regression to identify any upstanding archaeological features covered by the dense scrub and hazel was undertake.


N18 OG Phase 1 testing

N18 OG Phase 1 testing

  • 31 townland boundaries recorded
  • Area 5 – 12 newly discovered features - 8 sites for phase 2 excavations
  • Area 4 – 5 newly discovered features - 1 site for phase 2 excavations
  • Area 3 – 6 newly discovered sites - 8 sites for phase 2 excavations
  • Area 2 – 2 newly discovered sites - 4 sites for phase 2 excavations
  • Area 1 – 3 newly discovered sites – none for phase 2 excavations


  • 3 x excavation teams – directors, supervisors and assistants
  • 2 x 20 ton tracked excavators
  • Liaison officer
  • Surveyor
  • Reporting team
  • Management team

Phase 2

Excavated Sites

N18 OG Sites location

N18 OG Sites Location

21 sites were identified from phase 1 investigations and were fully excavated from January to May 2008:

  • Derrydonnell More - destroyed cashel, RMP site – identified by hand testing
  • Coldwood Foorkil – disturbed burnt mound – identified by centre line testing
  • Moyveela 3 – clachan settlement – identified by field walking
  • Moyveela 1 and 2 – burnt mounds – identified by centreline testing
  • Ballinillaun 1 and 2 – pits – identified by centreline testing
  • Lavally – estate cottage – identified during the EIS
  • Roevehagh – pits – identified by centreline testing
  • Owenbristy


  • Caherweelder 7 – metal working pit - identified by centreline testing
  • Caherweelder 5 – Large Burnt mound – RMP site
  • Caherweelder 4 – Well – RMP site
  • Caherweelder 1, 2, 3 and 6 – burnt mounds - identified by centreline testing
  • Owenbristy – cashel with burials - identified by centreline testing
  • Drumharsna north – field boundaries – RMP site
  • Drumharsna south – cashel – RMP site
  • Cullenagh More – lime kiln – field walking
  • Ballyglass West – large burnt mound - identified by centreline testing

Project Team

  • 6 excavation teams – 6 directors, 13 supervisors, 1 osteo archaeologist, 56 site assistants and 6 general operatives
  • Liaison officer/fencer
  • Surveyor and assistant
  • GIS x 3 – management, data input and reporting
  • Office manager and assistant
  • Senior Archaeologist


Eachtra Archaeological Projects would like to acknowledge the assistance of the following individuals and organisations:

  • Tony Collins Senior Executive Engineer, Galway County Council;
  • Laura Henegan, Galway County Council;
  • Damien O’Reilly PSCS, Irish Drilling Ltd;
  • Joseph O’Brien Engineer, Hyder Tobin Consultants;
  • Jerry O’Sullivan, NRA Project Archaeologist;
  • Martin Reid, Department of the Environment Heritage, and Local Government;
  • The co-operation with the testing and excavation programme by the landowners along the scheme is also gratefully acknowledged.
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