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Excavations on Donegore Hill, Co. Antrim

Excavations on Donegore Hill, Co. Antrim

J.P. Mallory, Eiméar Nelis and Barrie Hartwell

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The long awaited results of the early Neolithic to late Bronze Age site in Northern?Ireland Donegore Hill is situated in Co. Antrim, c. 30km NW of Belfast and 7.2km north of Lyles Hill, the type-site for the Irish Early Neolithic ceramic series (Piggott 1954, 167).

In 1981 the Belfast Archaeological Group discovered the site while field-checking air photography sites, recovering Neolithic pottery and flint implements from a ploughed field near the summit of the hill. The next year the Department of Archaeology, Queen's University Belfast, carried out a partial field survey and surface collection of the site (Appendix 1) and then followed this with test excavations as part of its field school in 1983.

Towards the end of the first season, when the weather had been extremely dry, Barrie Hartwell of the Dept of Archaeology overflew the excavation while en route to an aerial photographic survey in the Lough Neagh region. It was then that he observed and first recorded that the summit of Donegore was surrounded by crop-marks which had not been undetected in any previous analysis of the aerial photographs.

During the final week of excavation a test trench confirmed that the site was surrounded by two ditches dating to the Neolithic (Mallory and Hartwell 1984). Material recovered from the excavations indicates at least three, possibly four, main phases of occupation:

1) The Early Neolithic (Carinated Bowl = Western Neolithic = Lyles Hill phase although a few sherds of presumably more recent Carrowkeel Ware were recovered) with dates ranging from c. 4000 to 2500 BC but arguably confined within the general range of c. 3800-3400 BC.

2) Grooved Ware occupation (ceramics) and possibly other Later Neolithic activity involving linear cuts in the ditches with dates of c. 2900-2500 BC.

3) A putative Early Bronze Age phase whose existence is marked solely by the erection of a stockade. The single radiocarbon date for this structure, which falls c. 2300-1900 BC, could have suffered contamination (mixed Neolithic and Late Bronze Age charcoal) and the stockade may well have been contemporary with the final phase of occupation, i.e., phase 4.

4) Later (or Terminal) Bronze Age occupation indicated by a circular structure which dates c. 800-400 BC. It is quite possible that the stockade assigned to the Early Bronze Age (phase 3) was actually contemporary with this later circular structure.

Additional Information

Author J.P. Mallory, Eiméar Nelis and Barrie Hartwell
Publisher Wordwell
Publication date 19 Dec 2011
Format Paperback
ISBN/EAN 9781869857806

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