Story of Ireland Nominated For IFTA Award

The joint BBC/RTE production Story of Ireland presented by Fergal Keane has been nominated for an Irish Film and Television Academy award in the ‘Factual Programme’ Category. The awards ceremony takes place on 11th February. The programme charted the history of the island from earliest times through to the present day.

Rubicon’s Damian Shiels was involved in the segment of the programme that dealt with the 1601 Siege and Battle of Kinsale, Co. Cork. The company would like to wish the Story of Ireland team and Fergal the best of luck in the award ceremony!

The Story of Ireland team and Fergal Keane filming with Damian in Charles Fort, Kinsale

The Story of Ireland team and Fergal Keane filming with Damian in Charles Fort, Kinsale

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A Day in the Life of Caherduggan Castle, 15th April 1644

As the excavation at Caherduggan Castle winds down we are now concentrating on post-excavation works and trying to find out more about the people who occupied the site. With that in mind we have begun to explore the history of the Castle in the 1640s, when Ireland was engulfed in a conflict known as the Eleven Years War. Some of our finds, and possibly some of our structures, may date from this period.

The wars that erupted in 1641 continued into the 1650s, and would be characterized by an extreme level of religiously motivated violence between Catholics and Protestants. The final stages of the conflict would see the Parliamentarian Army of Oliver Cromwell come to Ireland and eventually crush all opposition. Caherduggan Castle was not immune to the events of this turbulent time; the war would come all to close in the early months of 1644.

During this period a series of witness testimonies were recorded that described events regarding the alleged activities of Irish insurgents. They survive to this day, and form an amazing body of documents known as the 1641 Depositions. These accounts give us a remarkable insight into what was taking place at Caherduggan on one day during the Eleven Years War.

There are a number of depositions which mention Caherduggan, but perhaps the most dramatic are those of Patrick Morrell and Elizabeth White; both lived there when, on the 15th April 1644, the Irish attacked. 36-year-old Morrell stated that he was present when the Irish party, led by Redmond Roche, seized the castle by surprise with 7 or 8 men. During the fight one of the occupants, ‘Dermot O’Brother’, was shot dead. Roche kept possession of the the castle and also kept a number of the occupants as hostages. Morrell recognized some of the assailants who accompanied Roche as ‘Redmond Danuane of Dannanstowne’, ‘John Roche of Ballynamoney’ and John’s son ‘Morris’.

The remains of Caherduggan Castle, where Patrick Morrell, Elizabeth White and Dermot O'Brother lived in April 1644

The remains of Caherduggan Castle, where Patrick Morrell, Elizabeth White and Dermot O'Brother lived in April 1644

Elizabeth White was 40 years old at the time of the attack, and also remembered ‘Dermot O’Brother’ a Protestant, being shot and killed on the bridge beside the Castle. She was able to identify the man who fired the shot, as ‘one Phelim’. She corroborates Morrell’s account of those Irish present, stating that about an hour after Caherduggan was taken she saw Redmond Roche in the presence of ‘John Roch of Ballynamony’, John’s son ‘Moroice Roch’ and ‘Redmond Dannan’. However she claims that ‘some of the Garvans’ and ‘some of Garrett Nagle’s sonns’ were also involved. Worse was to come for Elizabeth and her family following Caherduggan’s capture, as her husband John Brice was taken before Redmond Roche and ordered to hand over all his money, which she says was £30.

The testimonies of Patrick Morrell and Elizabeth White bring to life a dramatic day in the life of Caherduggan Castle, when Irish Confederates attacked on the 15th April 1644. It also highlights the personalized and local nature of this bloody conflict, where many of the individuals on opposing sides knew each other. We have only begun to scratch the surface of historical research on Caherduggan; further work will reveal details that we will combine with the results of our excavations to provide us with a unique glimpse into the story of this fascinating North Cork site.

References & Further Reading

1641 Depositions

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Biting the Bullet: The Archaeology of ‘Musketballs’

The ‘musketball’ was for many decades one of the most neglected of archaeological finds. They often went virtually unanalysed, tucked away at the back of a finds report and warranting only a fleeting mention. However, the growth of battlefield and conflict archaeology has led to a wave of new research that is rapidly changing our view of these little objects, and what they can tell us about momentous events in the past.

A Hoard of 2,701 lead bullets from Ballymore, Co. Westmeath. Concealed by Jacobites prior to their surrender here in 1691. Now on display in the National Museum of Ireland 'Soldiers & Chiefs' Exhibition

A hoard of 2,701 lead bullets illegally metal detected at Ballymore, Co. Westmeath. Probably concealed by Jacobites prior to their surrender to Williamite forces here in 1691. Now on display in the National Museum of Ireland 'Soldiers & Chiefs' Exhibition

Many ‘musketballs’ are not actually from muskets at all. The musket was in fact just one of a range of guns that fired a lead bullet. Different firearms used bullets of different sizes and weight, and often different types of gun were carried by different troop types. For example, in the late 17th century infantry usually carried heavy muskets, while mounted infantry called dragoons wielded carbines, which fired a slightly smaller ball. Cavalry and officers often employed the much smaller pistol as their firearm. It is often the case that analysis of bullet types can tell us about the range of different soldiers present at a particular site.

One of the most important aspects of lead bullet analysis is knowing where the ball has come from. If the exact findspot of each bullet is not carefully recorded archaeologically, a valuable piece of information is destroyed. The location of bullets on a battlefield provides us with a unique plan of how a fight progressed; it can reveal who fought where, what type of soldiers they were, and where the fighting was hardest. Often this information can completely re-write previous interpretations which were based solely on historical accounts. If the lead bullets are removed from their context without proper recording all this information is lost.

Lead Shot recovered from the Battlefield of Aughrim, Co. Galway

Lead shot recovered from the Battlefield of Aughrim, Co. Galway, and representing an attack on fleeing Jacobite soldiers

Above are some lead bullets we analysed for the National Roads Authority on behalf of Galway County Council. They were fired during the Battle of Aughrim, Co. Galway, in 1691, the bloodiest battle in Irish history. The size and weight of the bullets suggest that a mix of infantry and dragoons/cavalry fought here. Because we knew the exact findspot of each bullet we could see a pattern emerge, suggesting that this was evidence for a rout that we knew took place. When the Jacobite army broke, they attempted to flee to a nearby bog to escape rampaging Williamite cavalry. This small assemblage is surviving evidence of this desperate attempt to escape the slaughter.

The Siege and Battle of Kinsale, 1601. The Lord Deputy's Camp is in the centre left of the image.

The Siege and Battle of Kinsale, 1601. The Lord Deputy's Camp is in the centre left of the image (Pacata Hibernia, 1633)

We are also now getting better at recognising when lead bullets have been fired, and sometimes what they have hit. As well as this bullets can provide us with information about how and when they were made. The Kinsale Battlefield Project carried out a series of surveys on the site of the English camps in Kinsale, Co. Cork, where the siege and battle of Kinsale was fought in 1601 between the English and the Spanish/Gaelic Irish. The photo below is of lead shot we found at the Lord Deputy’s main Siege Camp. The terrible conditions during the siege that winter made the camps a sea of mud, an environment in which soldiers succumbed to cold and disease at a frightening rate ‘dying by dozens on a heap’ as one contemporary chronicler related. Analysis indicated that these bullets were made on site by these men. The bullets had not been fired, and some of them showed defects in the manufacturing process, possibly a result of the weather. This suggested to us that the soldiers were making bullets themselves around their campfires, and that these bullets were dropped in the mud and never recovered. Their presence indicates that a significant archaeological siege landscape survives in this part of Kinsale.

Lead Shot from the 1601 English Siege Camp at Kinsale, Co. Cork. The bullets have not formed properly in the mould, possibly a result of adverse weather conditions

Lead shot from the 1601 English Lord Deputy's Siege Camp at Kinsale, Co. Cork. The bullets have not formed properly in the mould, possibly a result of adverse weather conditions during manufacture

Another site Rubicon excavated was at Castledonovan Castle, in West Cork. This work was carried out on behalf of the Department of the Environment, Heritage & Local Government. In 1650 this castle was attacked by Parliamentarian troops. The historical details of the assault are sketchy, but an assemblage of 28 lead shot from a destruction layer excavated within the castle provides us with some clues as to events. It is clear that a small number of the bullets were fired, indicating that there may have been some minor skirmishing. Many of the unfired bullets were from the same type of gun, in this case a musket. It is probable that some of the bullets were made in the same mould. The location of these bullets in a burnt layer together with the sparse evidence for fired shot suggests the castle capitulated quickly before it’s destruction. The defenders ammunition was left in place after the garrison had either fled or surrendered.

Castledonovan, Co. Cork

Castledonovan Castle, Co. Cork, attacked by Parliamentarian forces in 1650

Sites such as these illustrate the value of lead bullet analysis. These little objects reveal information about moments in time that were extremely violent and traumatic for those involved. They were often deposited over just a few minutes or hours, in many cases as part of a famous historic event that we remain aware of today. There remains something distinctly personal about these objects. Each was designed to kill or maim, and many that we recover did just that. Many were last held by an individual who was in all probability experiencing extreme stress as they participated in deadly conflict. These bullets are objects that deserve our respect; their analysis can unlock details of our violent past that bring us closer to understanding the experience of our ancestors, and allows us to reveal events which were often the defining moment of their lives.

Lead Shot assemblage from the 1650 attack on Castledonovan Castle, Co. Cork

Lead shot assemblage from the 1650 attack on Castledonovan Castle, Co. Cork

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Cork Archaeology Firm Crosses its Rubicon

Shareholders of Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd (l-r) Colm Moloney, Louise Baker, Ross MacLeod & Damian Shiels

Shareholders of Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd (l-r) Colm Moloney, Louise Baker, Ross MacLeod & Damian Shiels

Headland Archaeology (Ireland) Ltd, Ireland’s premier archaeological consultancy is delighted to announce a fresh start as it is now under new ownership. The company management has agreed terms with Headland Group Ltd for the purchase of the subsidiary. This will be rebranded as Rubicon Heritage Services over the next three months.

The new owners, all based in the company’s HQ in Little Island near Cork, are confident about the future, with plans to break the UK market, valued at approximately £60m per annum. The company will retain all of its permanent staff and has just recruited an additional fifteen temporary archaeologists to cope with a significant increase in new contracts in Ireland.

The company has extensive experience in providing archaeological services and advice to the construction and development industry and has the full suite of archaeological services – the only ‘one-stop-shop’ for archaeology on the island of Ireland.

Director of Rubicon, Colm Moloney said “These are very exciting times. We are beginning to see real growth again in Ireland in our industry, with a significant increase in demand for archaeological services in the domestic market over the last few months. Our new independent status allows us to move into the UK market for the first time in our trading history, so we are determined to grab this opportunity and really grow again!”  

“Due to our previous involvement in the UK within the Headland Group, forging strong relationships over a decade, we are well positioned to break into the UK market and we are committed to making this happen within the next twelve months. This will mean big things for us, big things for archaeology in this country.” he continued.

Headland Archaeology, soon to be Rubicon Heritage Services, is currently running field projects in counties Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, Sligo, Galway, Dublin and Louth and are in the final stages of production of eight books on projects undertaken over the last few years.

The new shareholders are Colm Moloney, Damian Shiels, Ross Macleod and Louise Baker.

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I Am Just Going Outside and May Be Some Time….The Rubicon Christmas Field Trip

Some months ago we brought you the intrepid adventures of some of our office-based archaeologists, who struggled with the reality of suddenly being thrust back into the field for excavation duties. Entitled Legion of the Damned, the post charted the optimism, enthusiasm and ultimately the bodily destruction of those involved.

As today is our Christmas Party we decided to treat everyone in the office to a site visit. The destination- our excavations at Caherduggan Castle. It was a mixed bag- among the motley crew were some wizened and battle hardened field archaeologists, some who haven’t seen a field since going to John B. Keane’s play as part of a 1987 school trip, and others who had until recently been considered field archaeologists, but have been wooed by toasty radiators, air-conditioning and on-demand Barry’s with 2 sugars and Low-Fat milk- commodities that only a plush office setting can provide.

Luckily, and in the tradition of Rubicon Christmas Party outings, the weather was horrendous, it was freezing cold and Met Eireann promised we may be greeted by ‘near-hurricane’ conditions. These were the circumstances under which we found ourselves on site- the outcome is charted in photos below…

Some of the team took some time to adjust to strange clothing additions such as 'Vis Jackets', and strange oversized shoes called 'rigger boots'. Extreme cold would soon dull the shock...

Some of the team took some time to adjust to strange clothing additions such as 'Vis Jackets', and strange oversized shoes called 'rigger boots'. Extreme cold would soon dull the shock...

The team gaze nervously over the waterfilled moat and revetment...

The team gaze nervously over the waterfilled moat and revetment...

The staff keep their mind of the near-Arctic conditions as they listen to hardened combat supervisor Steve describe the finds from the well

The staff keep their mind off the near-Arctic conditions as they listen to hardened combat supervisor Steve describe the finds from the well

Steve shows some mercy and allows some of the better-behaved members of the party to 'look at some finds' in a strange room-like metal container...

Steve shows some mercy and allows some of the better-behaved members of the party to 'look at some finds' in a strange room-like metal container...

It becomes all too much for some, who look back longingly towards the Office

It becomes all too much for some, who look back longingly towards the Office

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Same Company, New Name: Welcome to Rubicon Heritage Services!

We are delighted to announce that as a result of a management buy-out Headland Archaeology (Ireland) Ltd is no longer part of Headland Group. In the future we will be known as Rubicon Heritage Services. We are the same company, with the same staff, offering the same services, only now our logo is red instead of green! Our new website can be found here and it will soon be fully up and running. We will continue to keep you up to date with all the latest archaeology and heritage news we have at the blog, and be sure and come join us at our new Facebook page here!Rubicon Heritage Services

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The Big Dig at Caherduggan Castle: Find of the Week #4

Yesterday we brought you news of a leather belt that emerged from the excavation of a well at Caherduggan Castle. As the day wore on this phenomenal feature continued to give up its secrets, producing another find of extraordinary quality. It was so good we decided to break our ‘Find of the Week’ policy and bring you another object which provides us with a glimpse of life in medieval Ireland. Yesterday afternoon was the first time it was touched by human hands in hundreds of years, and we just couldn’t let the week pass without giving you an opportunity to see it!

Medieval die from the Caherduggan Castle well- note how the maker almost ran out of room for the '6'

Medieval die from the Caherduggan Castle well- note how the maker almost ran out of room for the '6'

Towards the bottom of the well our team discovered an exquisite gaming die, in almost perfect condition. We suspect it is broadly contemporary with the belt, most probably of High Medieval date. Whereas modern dice are designed so their opposite sides add up to seven, our Caherduggan example is sequential, so 1 is opposite 2, 3 is opposite 4 and 5 is opposite 6.

Using dice for gaming was a popular pastime in the medieval period, as gambling was as popular then as it is now. As is often seen with dice of this period our example indicates the numbers using a series of concentric rings. You will notice the maker had problems fitting all the numbers on, as they almost ran out of room for the number 6 and had to squeeze the rings to fit them in. This is hardly surprising given the tiny size of the die, with each face only 8mm across.

Medieval die with scale, showing the tiny size of this exquisite object

Medieval die with scale, showing the tiny size of this exquisite object

Thus far we have found a belt, shoes and this gaming die in the well. There would now seem to be almost overwhelming evidence to suggest that these objects represent the remains of an ancient game of strip poker that went horribly wrong- although we will have to withhold final judgement on this until we learn what else is discovered. Join us again next week to see what else will emerge!

The 1, 4 and 5 faces of the Caherduggan die

The 1, 4 and 5 faces of the Caherduggan die

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The Big Dig at Caherduggan Castle: Find of the Week #3

During the excavation process we identified a big dark area behind the moat. Through careful excavation we realized this originally served as a well and was excavated down below the water table. Wet or waterlogged soils allow for preservation of materials which normally decay in a dry environment. This is due to the lack of air or ‘anaerobic’ condition. Once we got to the lower levels of the well the soil was extremely wet and lots of wood and a few scraps of leather were retrieved by the archaeologists.

Yesterday afternoon we found something really special near the bottom of the well– a complete leather belt which still retained its buckle and numerous metal studs along its length. This has been sent for conservation today in order to guarantee its preservation, but we will have more photos of it shortly once it has been cleaned up.

The medieval leather belt just after its discovery in the well

The medieval leather belt just after its discovery in the well

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The Big Dig at Caherduggan Castle: Week 3

Our third week in Caherduggan was spent excavating sections across a large ditch or moat which surrounded the tower described in last weeks post. We could see this once we removed the topsoil as a dark line of soil which stretched across the site. We started digging out this darker soil or ‘fill’ and immediately noticed that there was an awful lot of stone included with the soil. This turned out to be the remains of a wall which was built into the side of the moat, designed to give added protection to the people living in the castle.

Excavation of the moat in progress, with the remains of the wall, or 'revetment' visible

Excavation of the moat in progress, with the remains of the wall, or 'revetment' visible

While digging out the soil that fills the moat we recovered lots of things that can tell us about the people who lived in the castle. We recovered pottery which we know was made around the 16th or 17th century. This lets us know that the moat was no longer needed by the 17th century and was filled in. Some of the pottery was made in England and on continental Europe which tells us that the people that lived in the castle were wealthy and could buy exotic objects from foreign lands. One piece of decorated pottery came from Germany! We also recovered lots of fragments of animal bone from the soil that filled the moat. One of our team is a specialist in animal bones. She will  examine these bones and will be able to tell us what kinds of animals they come from and also what kind of meat the castle dwellers ate.

The moat was built around the tower in order to protect the people living in the castle. It was probably filled with water and the wall we found in it would have been much higher in the past. We think a bank was located behind the wall which would have allowed soldiers to stand behind it and still be able to defend against any attack.

How the moat and wall, or 'revetment' may have been used in the 17th century before it went out of use (Sara Nylund)

How the moat and wall, or 'revetment' may have been used in the 17th century before it went out of use (Sara Nylund)

We have dug three sections across the moat in order to record the soil that is filling it. Over the next few weeks we will be digging out the rest of the soil that fills the moat and hopefully will find out lots more about the people that lived in the castle and the kind of live s they had.

If you would like to learn more about archaeology why not have a look here. In Its about time 2 look at Theme 2 Living and Lifestyle, which includes information of the archaeology of defence.

Posted in Cork County Council, Excavations, Medieval Archaeology, Post Medieval Archaeology, Rubicon Heritage | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Big Dig at Caherduggan Castle: Find of the Week #2

Gutter Stones at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

Gutter Stones projecting from the walls at Edinburgh Castle, Scotland

The castle that once stood on our site was demolished around the middle of the 19th century. When this big stone tower was knocked down we believe that most of the shaped or carved stone was taken away to be re-used in other buildings in the locality. Occasionally we find pieces of stone that were shaped in a special way to serve a purpose in the castle. This week we found just such a stone. We believe this may have been a gutter outlet which would have been built into the wall near the roof of the tower. This would have been at the end of the gutter. During wet weather rain would gather in the gutter and flow down to the gutter outlet which channeled the water away from the walls. This shows us just how clever medieval builders were!

The Caherduggan Castle Gutter Stone

The Caherduggan Castle Gutter Stone

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