Day 20 – Done and dusted

Now that the excavation is over, have a look-out for important future postings; a final environmental report, a full analysis of the flint from the site, the finished drawings and preliminary reports. In about six weeks we will have a C14 date that will confirm, once and for all, the date of this monumental structure.

Day20JCB
The OPW kindly provided the machine- and man-power to fill in the cutting. We cannot adequately express out gratitude to all in the OPW! In this photo we see (from left) Tony Kelly, Peter Dooner, John (Kruger) Lennon, Matthew Stout (in OPW hi-viz vest) and Craig. Frank Taffe awarded the vest to Matt, making him an honorary OPW worker for the day, a great honour.
Day20Pan
Panorama of the site being backfilled. David approaches on his quad-bike (photo: Helen Stout).

 

LiseHand
The month ended with this fine piece by Lise Hand in the Irish edition of the London Times. She brought together all the discoveries from this summer.

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Day 19 – The excavation ends

Day19Stones
The ranging rod on the left rests on the flat bottom of the ‘great pit’, after as many stones as could be safely removed were taken away.
Day19PostEx
Post-ex begins! The work will continue after the digging stops. Here Penny Johnston shows a book on Cursuses. A lot of study of comparable sites in Britain and Ireland lies ahead.
Day19OBrien
OPW’s John O’Brien with his daughter Clare after their visit to the site. Here they can be seen with co-director Matthew Stout enjoying a cup of coffee at the Newgrange Farm restaurant.
Day19BM
Barry Drinan and Marie Bourke enjoying our end of excavation soirée in the lovely grounds of the Newgrange Farm picnic area.
Day19Group
The soirée from the west.
Day19Group2
The soirée from the east.
Day19TSHirts
Sporting the commemorative T-shirt are Mattison, Richard, Donal, Matthew and Sadhbh.
Day19LiamOC
Enjoying the soirée are Fionbarr Moore, Caitríona Devane, Kieran Campbell and Liam O’Connor (seated).

Day 18 – Recording, recording, recording

The team has turned its focus to final recording of the pits and ditches exposed during the last few weeks. This is an extremely important phase of the excavation and will form part of the final report that will be produced on the results of the excavation. Once this section of the monument is back-filled this will form the main record of this portion of the site.  Matt welcomed colleagues from his college, DCU who interviewed and recorded work at the site. The research excavation at Newgrange Farm provides an insight into the kind of research which members of the DCU academic staff undertake over the summer. Lise Hand, journalist with the London Times (Irish edition) came on site to interview Matt about the excavation. Visitors to the site included Peter Dooner (OPW)  and Sarah Cummins with her husband Shane who generously spent most of the day sieving on site. We were also delighted to also see Clare Tuffy and Leonsha Lenihan of the Brú na Bóinne Visitors Centre who took time out from their crazy schedule to call in.

That evening, many on the excavation gathered at Tara for the last of this July’s Tara Lectures. The audience were treated to a novel and highly enjoyable analysis of the iconography of the Crosses at Monasterboice by Peter Harbison. Peter and all assembled thanked Clare Tuffy and her staff for organising and hosting the Tara Lecture Series.

Day18DeepPit
Matt was back in the great pit after having had to face the reality that the stones at the bottom of the pit were not natural but were, in fact, fill. As many of the boulders were removed as possible, without endangering the structural integrity of the sides of the cutting. The digging out of the pit was extremely difficult and was made possible by the human chain of Craig and Tom who passed the fill up and out of the cutting. Some bone and clay deposits overlay the basal gravels.
Day18Clare
Clare Tuffy and Leonsha Lenihan (top right) inspect the site. Mattison provides a guided tour of the excavation (centre top). Billy (with drawing board) finalises the section of the eastern side of the cutting.
Day18Closeup
Matt Stout getting ready for his close-up with Nicole Keohane and Daire Hall from the DCU Communications Office
Day18Lise
Lise Hand (right) begins her interview with Jo Leigh. Lise writes for the Irish edition of the London Times. Lise has written an entertaining but hard hitting piece on the deplorable decision whereby history is no longer a mandatory subject for the Junior Cert. The link to her article is: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/our-understanding-of-history-is-out-of-date-lg6ql8hn5?shareToken=df4ad167ce124642878559b2f9c75049
Day18Sieve
Sarah Cummins with her husband Shane sieving pit deposits.
Day19Hut
A view of the admissions hut at the entrance of Newgrange Farm. To the right are the posters informing new arrivals of the archaeological excavation taking place nearby. As a result, hundreds of visitors have come to the excavation. They were usually met by Mattison who explained the excavation and invited the public to take part in the excavation through sieving material taken from the cutting. It was always a priority of this public funded excavation to welcome as many members of the public as possible.

 

DAY 17 – Colleagues visit

We have reached the bottom of the outer ditch and so the crew is dry sieving the last of the feature fill and sorting all the tools and equipment to return to the OPW. Our environmental archaeologist has processed all the environmental samples and is now doing painstaking microscopic examination for seeds and charcoal. The remaining finds have been catalogued and the drawing of sections and planning of the pits and ditches is in full swing. Jo Leigh, who discovered this great monument, kindly came back from her holidays to help us with the survey work. It was great to see so many colleagues from the National Monuments Service visiting the site as well as our friend Kate Sweetman with three of her French guests. There is a great sense of relief on the site that we achieved our goal for this season and should have all our work done before the site is back-filled at the end of the week.

Day17Survey
After the cutting was finally emptied, Geraldine and Billy set about drawing the sections.

 

Day17CBEnd
The cutting at the end of the day with National Monuments Service archaeologist Karl Brady.
IMG_0404
Muirne was the hardest working person on the site today. She single-handedly sieved through the remaining fill of the ‘great pit’. Here she has her head down, focussed on the task.
Day17AnneKate
Visitors to the site today included, from left: Anne Lynch, former Chief Archaeologist with the National Monuments Service. Kate Sweetman and her three French guests.
Day17LiamOC
Earlier in the month we had Professor George Eogan visit the site. Today we had the man who worked with George for all but 1 of the 40 years of excavation at Knowth passage tomb. Liam O’Connor listens to Geraldine describe the site along with his nieces Noeline Fitzsimons and Liz Maguire.
Day17Keane
Mattison gives a tour of the site to Michelle and Etna and at the right, Geraldine’s colleague in the National Monuments Service Margaret Keane with her husband Mohammad.
Day17SandL
Linda Newe and her son Steve. Both dug with us at Bective in 2012. Linda was then a student at DCU. Now Steve is a third year student doing archaeology at UCD.

Day 16 – Joys of digging

Today was another great day on site with many volunteers coming out of the woodwork to help us finish up. Matt with the help of Hugh McElveen, Callum McElveen and Helen has bottomed the great pit where there are fire-reddened boulders and burnt bone in the base. Craig and Tom have emptied the inner ditch so all the action is now homing in on the north end of the trench where the outer ditch continues to go down, thanks to the hard work of Joseph, Livy, Donal, Katee and Muirne Lyons (National Monuments Service). Billy and Geraldine have started recording the long sections. Archaeologist Ian Russell  (ACS) arrived on site and very generously offered to record the site with the company’s drone, which is greatly appreciated. It was wonderful to welcome to the site our long-standing supporters James and Margaret Nugent with their extended family and Anthony Murphy with his family.  Another distinguished visitor was Laureen Buckley (human bone expert) who brought a fabulous cake from a recent significant birthday party. Many thanks to Catherine Bonner who kept us supplied with tea throughout the day and the Redhouse family who kindly plied us all with ice creams. Its a great life ( … if you don’t weaken)!

Day16Mattspit
Matthew began the day determined to bottom the ‘great pit’.
Day16MattInPit
Here Matt cleans out the last bit of burnt earth and charcoal over the natural boulders at the base of the pit. Almost done.
Day16MattsPit2
The ‘great pit’ emptied at last.
Day16End
The cutting at the end of day 16.

 

Day16C&M
Craig Downie and newcomer to the site Muirne Lyons
Day16M&K
Muirne and Katee. If you look closely you can see that Katee is standing on a brown patch in the north-west corner of the cutting. This is the last of the pits identified by Joanne Leigh included in our cutting. We only have a couple more days to dig it out to see what it contains.
Day16Murphys
Anthony Murphy and family (Ann, Amy, Luke, Josh, Tara and Finn) joined us for the day and did a mighty job sieving through the deposits from the ‘great pit’. Anthony is still his loveable and humble self despite being included in last Saturday’s Irish Times under the category of ‘What’s Hot’!
Day16Laureen
Laureen Buckley is Ireland’s leading human bone expert. Unfortunately, we have not found any human bone on the site (a fact that she was able to confirm today). Laureen just celebrated a significant birthday and she shared her fabulous cake with us.
Day16Nugents
The common denominator in this photo is the link with the Sweetman family. Seated beside Geraldine is Margaret Nugent (nee Sweetman). Margaret is the aunt of Hugh McElveen (shown in this picture with wife Catherine, son Callum and daughter Eve. Then you have James Nugent (husband to Margaret) with a daughter-in-law, Oonagh Conlon, and two of their grandchildren, Emma and Sarah Nugent. James and Margaret have been great supporters of our excavations from the beginning.
Day16Ian
Ian Russell of ACS Archaeological Services in control of the company drone (see below).
Day16Drone
The magnificent panorama of the Bend of the Boyne with our excavation centre-left. The photo was taken from the ACS drone (photo: Ian Russell).

 

Day 15 – Rainy day

We have taken this long dry spell for granted on the excavation so it was a shock to the system to experience our first day of rain. Fortunately, the rain helped show up contrasts in soil deposits in the section face wonderfully.  It also provided an opportunity to catch up on some site homework.  In between the showers, Billy Sines started to draw the sections. In the late morning we had very important visitors from the Royal Irish Academy Archaeology Committee, who have provided a research grant for this excavation, Ian Doyle (Heritage Council of Ireland) and Dr Edel Bhreathnach (The Discovery Programme) with Raghnall O’Floinn, recently retired  from the National Museum of Ireland. In the afternoon we were able to do some digging and Matthew and Sadhbh uncovered a large deposit of red burnt soil and stones with animal bones, which have been sampled from the great pit.  A large group of very enthusiastic children from Teach na nDaoine family resource centre, Monaghan, offered to help out on the excavation and their examination of our spoil heap produced numerous pieces of quartz, worked chert and a flint flake. So thank you guys!

Today was the last day on the site for two of our intrepid diggers. We thank Ciarán McDonnell and Comhall Ferriter for their magnificent contribution.

 

Day15Inspectors
Inspecting the site for the Royal Irish Academy are Ian Doyle (Heritage Council) and Edel Bhreathnach (Discovery Programme). From left: Sorcha (Ragnall and Edel’s daughter), Ragnall Ó Floinn (Director Emeritus of the National Museum of Ireland), Clare Busher O’Sullivan, Ian, Edel and Geraldine Stout
Day15Grogan
Eoin Grogan, (Maynooth University), Helen Roche (prehistoric pottery expert) and Patrick Redhouse discuss the site with Geraldine Stout. Helen had a look at a piece of ‘pottery’ discovered by Matthew in the first days of the excavation. She determined that it was merely a clump of dirt. Matthew took the whole weekend to recover from the disappointment.
Day15Ed
Joe with his friend Livy at tea break, Livy chose a wet day to start her archaeological career.
Day15Murphy
Anthony Murphy with site co-director Geraldine Stout. Anthony is the man who discovered the crop-mark henges in the fields below Newgrange (now known to some as ‘Drone-henge’). Anthony has supported our excavations since we dug at Knowth Site M in 2002–04. Anthony, in addition to his day job with the Farmer’s Journal, edits the website Mythical Ireland.
Day15Group
A large group of children from Teach na nDaoine, Monaghan, visited the excavation at the end of the day.
Day15IT1
An unimaginable level of fame was achieved for the excavation on Saturday. The project made it into the ‘Whats Hot and What’s Not’ section of the Irish Times Magazine.

Day15IT2

More importantly, Lorna Siggins refers to the excavation in an article in the Weekend Section of the paper.

https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/archaeological-revelations-in-meath-offer-a-historic-opportunity-1.3570336

 

Day13MandH
Matthew and his daughter Helen (photo: Marie Bourke).

 

 

Day 14 – Are we there yet?

We thought we had reached the bottom of the outer ditch but a charcoal spread which appeared in the last two days, indicated that this was not the case and now it continues to go down thanks to the hard work of Joseph Moran, Helen Stout and Ciarán McDonnell with lots of help from Sadhbh and Richard, Peadar and Maria. The dynamic duo of Mattie (the Mattock Mattison Interian) and Matt with the help of Siobháin McCormack (of Bective Abbey fame) have finally bottomed the great pit. Tom and Craig continue to go down in the inner ditch.  We were thrilled to see members of our family arrive on site during the day. Natalie (Geraldine’s niece-in-law) with our youngest visitor Theo (who is ten weeks old), Emily, Linda and Siobháin did a great job on the sieve. We also were delighted to see Barbara and (little) Geraldine (two of Geraldine’s nieces) with Hayden, Leo and Brody. In the afternoon our friends from Drogheda, Rachel, Nicola, Erris, Mede and Connie joined us on a tour of the site.

Our Notre Dame intern Mattison Interian was a guest on radio LMFM’s ‘Late Lunch’ Gerry Kelly’s afternoon  show. She spoke about her football career and her time in Ireland.

IMG_0304
Mattison with radio presenter Gerry Kelly.
Day14Beggs
From left: Natalie (with Theo), Siobháin, Emily, Linda, Siobháin McCormack and Geraldine Stout. Natalie is Geraldine’s niece-in-law while Linda is from the Robinson family, the owners of Knowth house during the Eogan-led excavations.
Day14Emily
Emily Beggs in search of her next major discovery.
Day14Rachel'sKids
Connie, Erris and Mede (children of Rachel and Donagh) after a hard day’s work at the excavation.
Day14RachelNickola
Rachel and Nicola Pierce honoured the site with a visit. Both are noted authors.
Day14Siobhain
Chilling at the end of the day under the gazebo are Maria, Peadar and Siobháin McCormack. Siobhain is sporting her groovy pink wellies.
Day14Thorntons
Geraldine explains the excavation to her nieces Geraldine and Barbara and Brody, Hayden and Leo.

 

Day14Maynooth
We were joined in the afternoon by a group of archaeological summer school students from Irish Cultural Heritage (Oidhreacht Chultúrtha), an exciting and innovative development within the School of Celtic Studies at  Maynooth University. The group was led by Mary Leenane (a leading authority on Cú Chulainn) and Eoin Grogan (NUIM). Unfortunately the blog photographer omitted to include Eoin in the group photo (see inset).