Independent newspaper, August 2nd, 2002
have struck gold at an ancient ringfort near the famous Boyne
Valley passage mounds.
The highly ornamented gold piece is believed to be part of a
brooch which probably dates to the Anglo-Saxon period, and it
was found during the recentexcavations by Drogheda woman Gemma
gold artefact probably dates from the seventh century, but there
is plenty of evidence to suggest the site was inhabited since
much earlier, and the discovery of pieces of worked flint and
the bones of prehistoric cows and pigs suggests activity at
the site as far back as the Stone Age.
The new phase of excavations, which began just four weeks ago,
is close to the world famous passage tomb at Knowth. The dig
has revealed that an enigmatic series of earthen banks identified
from aerial photography are in fact the remains of a major Early
on the archaeological dig at Site M during July 2002. Picture
© Anthony Murphy, 2002.
site is the subject of a research programme funded by the Royal
Irish Academy and directed by Dr Geraldine Stout of Dúchas
and Dr Matthew Stout of St Patrick's College, Drumcondra. Other
pieces found during excavations include Anglo-Saxon glass beads.
The first four-week season of this new programme of excavations
has, according to Dr Geraldine Stout, succeeded in its primary
goal to determine the date of the earthworks known to
archaeologists as 'Site M'. Dr Stout says the area has long
attracted speculation about its date and function.
have said it was a prehistoric ceremonial enclosure, also known
as a 'henge', while others have suggested that it was a medieval
farm dating from the time of the Cistercians, but after only
one season we know it is an Early Christian habitation site.'
M is enclosed by three defensive ditches containing large amounts
of cattle, pig and horse bones. The evidence shows that it was
used for domestic purposes and the finds point to a seventh
The beauty and rarity of the decorated gold piece emphasises
once again the international pre-eminence of the Boyne Valley.
It is currently in the care of the National Museum, where it
will be cleaned and examined for eventual display. It is only
the second time gold has been found in the Brú na Bóinne
area, following finds of gold and other metal objects such as
Roman coins at Newgrange during excavations there in the 1970s
Stout, a leading expert on Early Christian settlements, known
as ringforts, said: 'a find like this is just what one might
expect from an extremely rare, high-status triple-banked ringfort
in such a strategically
important area.' During the seventh century Knowth was the capital
of the kingdom of Northern Brega and the site could be associated
with this phase in the valley's past.
The precise date of the site will be confirmed through the scientific
dating of organic remains from the banks and ditches. Soil samples
have yielded pollen, beetles and seeds. Local environmental
archaeologist Joanne Hughes will be able to reconstruct what
the environment was like when this enclosure was in use.
directors, Geraldine and Matthew Stout from Julianstown, are
very grateful to their hard working crew and the many volunteers
from America, Australia and Ireland including Drogheda¹s
own Deirdre Russell and Richard and Elizabeth Moore. Dúchas,
the Heritage Service, were very generous in providing support
facilities and spacious accommodation at Knowth house. The diggers
hope to return to the site next year to discover more about
this impressive monument.
about Knowth ringfort | Back
to the news page