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Excavating Death: Newford, Ballygarraun and Carrowkeel

Excavating Death: Newford, Ballygarraun and Carrowkeel

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Published by Brendon Wilkins
Ireland Multi-period burials

Excavating death
Newford, Ballygarraun, and Carrowkeel
The Galway to Ballinasloe N6 road scheme in the Republic of Ireland was 56km long: metre for metre, one of the largest archaeological projects anywhere in the world. The archaeology found along the scheme has shed new light on the treatment of the dead at crucial stages of Irish history. Brendon Wilkins explains the evidence.

all photoS: Headland Archaeology Ltd unless otherwise noted.

T

he massive scale of t
Ireland Multi-period burials

Excavating death
Newford, Ballygarraun, and Carrowkeel
The Galway to Ballinasloe N6 road scheme in the Republic of Ireland was 56km long: metre for metre, one of the largest archaeological projects anywhere in the world. The archaeology found along the scheme has shed new light on the treatment of the dead at crucial stages of Irish history. Brendon Wilkins explains the evidence.

all photoS: Headland Archaeology Ltd unless otherwise noted.

T

he massive scale of t

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Brendon Wilkins on Jul 31, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/14/2012

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current archaeology
 
|
 
www.archaeology.co.uk
ireland
 
Multi-period burials
Sb
2010
 
|
36
The Galway to Ballinasloe N6 road scheme inthe Republic of Ireland was 56km long: metrefor metre, one of the largest archaeologicalprojects anywhere in the world. Thearchaeology found along the scheme has shednew light on the treatment of the dead atcrucial stages of Irish history.
B Ws
 explains the evidence.
 Newford, Ballygarraun, and Carrowkeel 
T
he massive scale of the N6 roadscheme project was typical of the Irish ‘Celtic Tiger’ economicboom – a golden age for archaeo-logical discovery, paid for by anannual road building budget esti-mated in 2005 at €1.5bn. Thirty-six sites wereexcavated along the road scheme, ranging fromthe prehistoric to the early modern period. Overthe winter of 2005-2006, on behalf of HeadlandArchaeology Ltd, I excavated a quarter of thesesites, nearly every one a mortuary site.There were 13 funerary sites discovered on theN6, including one late Neolithic and one earlyBronze Age cremation site, four Bronze Age cre-mation sites, one Bronze Age funerary pyre, oneIron Age cremation, one multi-period cemetery,
Excavating death
   a   l   l   p   h   o   t   o   S   :
   H   e   a    d    l   a   n    d   A   r   c    h   a   e   o    l   o   g   y   L   t    d   u   n    l   e   s   s   o   t    h   e   r   w   i   s   e   n   o   t   e    d .
 
right
Sunset over thecemetery at Carrowkeel.
   P    h   o   t   o  :   B   r   i   a   n   M   a   c   D   o   m    h   n   a   i    l    l
 
www.archaeology.co.uk
 
|
 
current archaeology
|
 
Issue
246
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WINNER 
2010 awards for thepresentation of heritage research
in Galway
 
current archaeology
 
|
 
www.archaeology.co.uk
ireland
 
Multi-period burials
Sb
2010
 
|
38
ireland
County galWay
County galWayn6
top 
This illustrationshows the distribution of funerary sites excavatedon the N6 road scheme.
   i   m   a   g   e   :
   J   o   n   a   t    h   a   n   M   i    l    l   a   r
Human skeletons often reveal more about thelife of an individual than their death. Osteo-archaeology can assess how long people lived,their sex, diet, stature, and whether they suf-fered illness or disease – but the scope of funeraryarchaeology is much broader. Mortuary behav-iour is not just concerned with the dead, but alsothe living people who buried them. A funeralcan involve many activities, such as ceremonyand feasting, which may have been more signifi-cant to the mourners than the actual momentof burial but which leave only faint traces in thearchaeological record. Knowledge of the anthro-pology of ritual is essential in order to understanda funerary site. Archaeologists must look beyondboth dirt archaeology and modern attitudestowards death in order to breathe life back intomortuary remains.
The Newford Bronze Age burial
In prehistoric Ireland, cremation was the usualprocess for disposal of the dead, and the materialremains are at best fragmentary. In many cases,one Early Medieval transitionary burial, two EarlyMedieval cemeteries, and one Post Medieval chil-dren’s burial ground. This feature will focus on justthree of those sites: the Bronze Age pyre at Newford,a solitary burial of the Early Christian period fromBallygarraun West and the early Medieval ‘cíllín’cemetery at Carrowkeel. These sites reveal a multi-tude of different cultural expressions for mortuarybehaviour in prehistoric and Medieval Ireland.With such a great time span to get to grips with, wemight begin by asking: how do we learn about earlysocieties from the way in which they treat death?
Late Neolithic/Early Bronze AgeLateBronze AgeMulti-periodcemetaryEarlyMedievalPost MedievalBronze AgeIron Age

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