Newry.ie
Write a comment
Aerial view of a rath at Carnbane, near Newry, during excavation in 2011. Two souterrains and evidence of house structures were found.  Courtesy of Fintan Walsh, Irish Archaeological Consultancy
Pin It

In advance of a planned extension to Carnbane Industrial Estate on the outskirts of Newry, an archaeological excavation was undertaken in 2011 by Irish Archaeological Consultancy on land adjacent to where previous research had revealed a Bronze Age landscape consisting of multiple ring ditches, cemeteries and burnt mounds. 

A cobbled area uncovered at the centre of the rath, was interpreted as dating from reuse of the structure in the post medieval period. Courtesy of Fintan Walsh, Irish Archaeological Consultancy
A cobbled area uncovered at the centre of the rath, was interpreted as dating from reuse of the structure in the post medieval period. Courtesy of Fintan Walsh, Irish Archaeological Consultancy

The subsequent excavations revealed the site to be an extensive multi-phased archaeological landscape. The bulk of the finds date to the early medieval period (Early Christian) but there was evidence of continual human occupation from as far back as the Mesolithic (7000 – 3500 BC), when people where hunter-gatherers, until the 17th century when the site became part of a military encampment.

Sherds from an Early Bronze Age pottery vessel found during the Carnbane excavations. Courtesy of Fintan Walsh, Irish Archaeological Consultancy
Sherds from an Early Bronze Age pottery vessel found during the Carnbane excavations. Courtesy of Fintan Walsh, Irish Archaeological Consultancy

Mesolithic activity at the site was indicated by the discovery of a pit accompanied by various flint tools including a large leaf-shaped blade. This may show that the area had a strong Mesolithic presence, perhaps with the Clanrye River as the main attraction as a source of fish for food. 

The Carlingford region is famous for its cluster of megalithic tombs, dating from the Neoltihic period (4000 – 2500 BC), in the Mournes, Slieve Gullion and the Cooley Peninsula. There appears to have been significant Neolithic settlement in the lowland areas too and a court tomb was recorded in the townland of Carnbane in the 18th century. No trace of this tomb survives today but quantities of Neolithic pottery and flint tools were discovered during the excavations. Evidence for two wooden buildings was also uncovered. 

Bronze Age (2500 – 300 BC) settlement at the site was revealed by the presence of Beaker pottery and two cremation burials. One of the cremation burials was of a juvenile and the other contained two individuals, one a juvenile and the other a young adult. These burials were probably associated with a larger, probable Bronze Age, burial site discovered in the Carnmeen/Lisduff area by a previous excavation.

Central to early medieval (or Early Christian) settlement on the site, was a large rath. Archaeologists have interpreted raths as farmsteads and the example at Carnbane contained evidence for at least two timber-framed houses and two souterrains (underground tunnels used for refuge). Quantities of early medieval pottery, known as ‘souterrain ware’, were also found in addition to evidence for metal working.  

There is strong evidence that the rath was re-used in the later medieval period and in the 16th century. A cobbled surface was discovered along with later medieval and 17th century pottery and evidence for an impressive timber-framed building dating from the later years of the 16th century was also found. It is possible that the site had military significance during the Nine Year’s War (1593-1603) and may represent the encampment near Newry which Lord Deputy Mountjoy referred to as ‘Carrickbane’ in 1600.

Sherds of 16th or 17th century Raeren pottery, which was manufactured in Belgium, which was discovered at Carnbane. Courtesy of Fintan Walsh, Irish Archaeological Consultancy
Sherds of 16th or 17th century Raeren pottery, which was manufactured in Belgium, which was discovered at Carnbane. Courtesy of Fintan Walsh, Irish Archaeological Consultancy

These excavations are very important for understanding prehistoric and medieval settlement in the Newry area and pottery and other artefacts from this site are on display in Gallery 1 at Newry and Mourne Museum.

The Museum is currently offering free tours of the exhibition galleries on Wednesdays and Thursdays at 11.00 am. These must be booked in advance by calling our Education Officer at 0330 137 4422.

Newry and Mourne Museum is open Tuesday – Saturday 10.00 am – 4.30 pm. Please call 0330 137 4422 or email museum@nmandd.org for further information.

Say something here...
or post as a guest
Loading comment... The comment will be refreshed after 00:00.

Be the first to comment.

DONATE TO NEWRY.IE

Please consider supporting Newry.ie

Amount
Newry.ie require Cookies on some parts of our site to enable full functionality. By using Newry.ie you consent to our use of Cookies. You can use your browser settings to disable cookies on this or any other website.