And the population comprised a disproportionate percentage of non‐adults,infant and foetal remains.
These infant and foetal remains were topsoil burials barely buried beneath thesurface, and looking back over my field notes, we were labouring under an illusion.During the excavation we assumed, I think quite reasonably given the lack of cleargrave cuts, that there were three phases of cemetery use (Slide 2).
A primary phase represented by a crouched inhumation found in theterminus of a ditch.
A secondary phase of supine west‐east orientated burials, probablyrepresenting the use of the site as an early Christian enclosure;
And a final phase of exclusively children that belonged to a
Phase of thesite.
In later medieval Ireland right up into the mid 1960s, un‐baptised children were not permitted to be buried in consecrated ground, but interred in
cemeteries ‐liminal, clandestine places often associated with physical and conceptual boundariesin the landscape. To borrow a phrase I’ve heard once or twice myself, if you’renames not down, you’re not getting in.In fact we now think it was neither of those things. We took 40 radiocarbon datesfrom the cemetery and they turned the original phasing on its head. The cemeterywas in use from the 7
to the 15
century, and far from being a later post medievalphase of activity, the spatial segregation of children can actually be recognised in theearly phases of the site, much earlier than the mainstream opinion for the
burial.This led us to question: Perhaps infant segregation in the early medieval period at Carrowkeel was a precursor to the more general, historically documented latermedieval practice of
burial? Perhaps the adoption of Christianity elaboratedthe pre‐existing boundaries of an early medieval society obsessed with maintainingstatus divisions in life and their continuity into death? Or perhaps this was neither a
nor an ecclesiastical enclosure, but something else that defied easyclassification.I’ll address these issues shortly but now let’s have a look at the evidence, beforeassessing how current thinking on boundaries connects with this particular site.
Carrowkeel was situated on the western brow of an east/west ridge of higherground overlooking a known area of early medieval settlement, consisting of cashels, a souterrain, house sites and a field system approximately 150 metres away