04 Dec 2021

Waterford community group make 'exciting' discovery in Dungarvan hills

Waterford community make 'exciting' discovery

'Exciting' discovery in Gallows Hill, County Waterford

"Exciting" evidence of a settlement that dates from the late Iron Age/early Christian period has been discovered at Gallows Hill, Dungarvan, County Waterford

Charcoal samples from a circular ditch under the mound last week returned unexpected dates of approximately 400AD-500AD. The charcoal was mixed with fragments of burnt animal bones and flint. 

The Gallows Hill community-led project has been working with local volunteers and professionals since 2015 to uncover the hill’s hidden history. “In 2017-2018, the mound began giving up its secrets when three ditches and artefacts were uncovered at what seems to have been an Anglo-Norman motte. The hill had been refortified a few centuries later, when new defences were added. Last year, the group uncovered nine human burials  on the summit. Radiocarbon analysis returned this week has revealed the burials were buried at different times during the 1500s or 1600s, possibly when the hill’s summit was used as an execution site,” says a spokesperson for the Waterford County Museum Community Archaeology group.

“The newly-discovered ditch that revealed the sites early origins was only partially excavated and has possibly a great deal more to reveal. Further work may uncover the type of settlement that existed in Dungarvan, an early ringfort that was redeveloped as a motte or perhaps a pre-existing mound? Ringforts were circular fortified enclosures with one or more defensive ditches/ramparts thought to date from the early Christian period. 

“Interestingly, the place name Dun Garbhán or Garbhans Fort suggests the towns name originates from a Dun or fort. It is commonly accepted that the name Dún Garbhán originates from Saint Garbhan, although there is no obvious connection to the Saint. The findings are exciting, and the group is unearthing a long-forgotten story of Dungarvan over 800 years before the Anglo-Normans arrived in the town. It’s fascinating to think at the same period, High King Niall of the Nine Hostages reign was coming to the end, Saint Patrick arrived in Ireland and the fall of the Romans Empire had begun.”

The community project was established by volunteers to understand the mound use. It has revealed a fascinating multi-period site that is rewriting the history of Dungarvan.

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