Excavated Enclosure at Ballynagalliagh in Derry.
The discovery of items which are thousands of years old, including pottery and a Neolithic house in Derry, have been revealed in a new publication.
A report entitled, ‘Unearthed’, summarises some of the most significant archaeological discoveries in Northern Ireland between 2015 and 2018.
In this period almost 800 licensed archaeological excavations took place, mainly as a requirement of the planning process. The publication was produced by the Department for Communities Historic Environment Division (HED).
The report details how a “large enclosure” was uncovered within a housing development off the Skeoge Link Road in the Ballynagalliagh area of Derry. It was located on a relatively steep, south facing slope.
The enclosure was constituted of 90 post holes with 12 posts forming a separate arc in the north-west corner of the site. The majority of the post holes were of considerable size, with half of them producing broken bits of pottery, also known as sherds, within their fills.
Some of these have been identified as belonging to the Vase tradition of Bronze Age pottery and other sherds have been identified as coming from the Cordoned Urn tradition. The general date provided for the use of the site is 2000–1500 BC.
A substantial rectangular Neolithic house was identified at Turmeel townland, Co. Derry during the archaeological investigation of the A6 road near Dungiven.
It measured approximately 14m long and 7m wide and contained almost 1400 sherds of Neolithic pottery. The building was constructed during the period when farming and agriculture were introduced almost 6,000 years ago.
At the Glenshane Road near Claudy a Late Neolithic ritual site was discovered during a quarry extension. This consisted of a timber circle – large wooden posts with an outer fenced forecourt – which dated to circa 2500 BC.
Timber circles are likely to have been the focus of elaborate ritualised activities attended by large numbers of people.
HED Senior Archaeologist Andrew Gault said: “These excavations have resulted in exciting and important new information about our past, from evidence of the homesteads of some of the first prehistoric farming communities in Northern Ireland to more recent urban archaeological remains and industrial heritage.
“It is intended that ‘Unearthed’ will continue as a regular annual bulletin of the most significant archaeological discoveries arising from development-led archaeology in Northern Ireland.”
Discoveries in other parts of the country include a Bronze Age roundhouse at Rasharkin solar farm. It consisted of a post-ring, an internal heath, areas of stakeholes, and a segmented enclosure.
Enclosed houses generally date to the Middle Bronze Age, c. 1500 BC. Finds included a possible rubbing stone and several sherds of Late Bronze Age coarseware pottery.
An 18th/19th-century tannery, a place where animal hides are tanned, was discovered within the centre of the site at Royal Exchange in Belfast. This site is located within what would have been the 17th-century core of the city, an urban industrial operation where leather would have been produced commercially.
This was represented by a series of 15 tanning pits, the majority of which were constructed of wooden planks joined together by wooden dowels.
Mr Gault concluded: “These new discoveries highlight the importance of archaeological mitigation in advance of development, as well as the significant contributions made by developers and archaeologists in unearthing these new archaeological sites for the benefit of all in society.”
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