A Medievil ringfort that included a jewellery workshop and extensive farming has been uncovered in a surprise archaeological find during a road project outside Roscommon Town. However, it will take the outcome of scientific analysis on the almost 800 people whose remains were found in the excavation to reveal the complete story of the ringfort.
With no previous record of any habitation on the site, about a mile north of Roscommon Town, it was only when geophysics testing
results came back that it was clear that there were significant archaeological features.
After a year-long excavation that ended last October, including work by archaeologists through some of the worst storms in decades, a picture is now just emerging of the settlement that was probably occupied between the sixth and 11th centuries.
It is believed that several of the 470 juveniles and infants whose remains were unearthed may have been placed there during the later use of the site as a children’s burial ground.
The remains of 793 people were found, about three-quarters of them intact and the others were disarticulated. The dating techniques to be used during the analysis work over the next 15 months should confirm the period of occupation.
What is already evident from the excavation, carried out under the direction of Shane Delaney, is that the site was probably not inhabited in its later period of use. Instead, it may have been more of an administrative and industrial hub for a community living in a series of ringforts in the surrounding area.
According to Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) project archaeologist Martin Jones, overseeing the work as part of a road realignment on the N61, there were at least three other ringforts within 500 metres. “The working theory is that this was originally inhabited by a family that rose to some relative prominence in the area. They may have then constructed a number of other ringforts around this one, which became a centre for industrial activity,” he said. This is supported by the lack of evidence of structures within the excavation site, and the wealth of artefacts suggestive of light metalwork industry.
The amount of unfinished jewellery pieces found by the archaeologists indicates they were being made in a workshop at the site, possibly for trade