Glenballyeamon excavation will be last phase in community archaeology project

A community archaeology project will take place in Glenballyeamon.
A community archaeology project will take place in Glenballyeamon.

The last phase of a community archaeology project will get underway in September at the Cloughancor megalith, in Glenballyeamon, overlooking Cushendall. This is the fourth and final archaeological excavation to be carried out in the Glens of Antrim, organised jointly between the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork at Queen’s University Belfast and the Heart of the Glens Landscape Partnership.

During the first two weeks, the team will be working with local schools and communities demonstrating different archaeological skills and techniques.

“All local primary schools from Glenarm, Carnalbanagh right round to Glenravel and Ballycastle, will be taking part again this year. The children will get the chance to do some actual archaeological work; trowelling archaeological strata, sieving soil, sorting and labelling artefacts and some measuring and drawing of the site. It’s a real hands-on experience,” a spokesperson said.

“The pupils will get a tour of the site and a talk outlining the site’s history. Most importantly, the Glens are bursting with history and the whole area around Tievebuliagh and Lurig is steeped in archaeological features, and myths and legends.

“The mid Glens is the perfect area for exploration, with their rugged mountains and wide glens, they provide the the perfect backdrop for visitors to take a journey back in time.

“As this is a community project, everyone will get the opportunity to take part. The Queen’s Centre for Archaeological fieldwork will be offering training days to those who are interested in developing their skills and we are holding an open day where everyone can come along and have the chance to dig, help with surveys or just watch the fun unfold.

“You don’t need any prior experience, just a willingness to learn and a sense of adventure. The site will be open to volunteers and general public on Saturday September 23 for everyone to get involved in the excavation free of charge and find out more about the site. There will be two sessions throughout the day.

“The first session will run from 10.00 am until 11.30am and the second session will run from 12.30 until 2.00 pm. Spaces are limited, so please book early to avoid disappointment. To book your place please email laura@lps.ccght.org or call us on 028 20752100.

“Not only does this project offer the community a great opportunity to connect with your past but it also means that new discoveries, new research and knowledge of our ancestors will be documented and added to Northern Ireland Environment Agency records.

“We will also hope to present the findings through a series of talks and an exhibition to create a lasting record of the work we have done to help preserve the lost memories and mysteries of the past for our future generations.

“Digging beneath the surface who knows what you’ll uncover; whether it be a new skill, a new friend or an ancient relic! Get in touch with us for more information on how to get involved.”

The site to be excavated lies in rough grassland on a gentle slope at the base of Tievebulliagh.

It is believed to be a megalithic tomb dating to the prehistoric period and consists of five standing orthostats.

These upright stones enclose a small area that would have been used for burial during the Neolithic and Bronze Age (roughly 4000 – 1500 BC). Traces exist of a possible cairn (covering mound of rocks) that measures roughly 9 metres in diameter and is best preserved in the north-east of the site where there is an arc of a slight scarp.

The organisers say that the classification of the monument (e.g. Portal, Court, Passage Tomb etc.) remains problematic in the absence of excavation.

The enclosed area created by the orthostats was “undoubtedly covered by a capstone in antiquity, and a large flat stone lying to the immediate south of the monument might be the displaced capstone.

“The potential presence of the remnants of a cairn is also interesting as it would appear to have been extensively robbed out, and perhaps disturbance was caused to the capstone during this activity (originally the cairn would have completely covered the tomb and would have looked like a large mound for millennia,” the spokesperson continued.

“It is hoped that through excavation, artefacts will be recovered to date the monument, and to finally classify the tomb at Cloughancor. We plan to excavate three trenches during the investigation. The first two will centre on the tomb where we will excavate the chamber itself and also investigate the cairn.

“Often, secondary burials were inserted into the cairn, and we also hope to remove a portion of the cairn and investigate the ground surface below the stones.

“In theory, this will be the original prehistoric ground that has been protected by the cairn sitting on top. This should provide us with important environmental information on the surrounding area as well as affording the opportunity to encounter archaeology pre-dating the construction and use of the tomb.

“We also plan to excavate a trench approximately 10m from the tomb. This trench will investigate the exterior to the tomb and should reveal artefacts that can be compared and contrasted with those from the tomb itself.”

For further details about our projects and events visit www.heartoftheglens.org or our Facebook and Twitter pages.