Spectacular prehistoric discoveries from County Sligo

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Darragh McDaniel holding his find, which has been interpreted as a Bronze Age stone tool which may have been repurposed into a pendant.

COVID-19 restrictions have not stopped the Sligo Community Archaeology Project, which can boast of some very exciting prehistoric discoveries in the county over the past few months.

This initiative (undertaken in partnership with the Heritage Council) aims to connect archaeologists and members of the public in order to properly record chance finds within the county. One of these recent discoveries (made in March 2020 but, due to COVID restrictions, not verified until the summer) was a prehistoric stone pendant, discovered by 15-year-old Darragh McDaniel while he was helping his father dig a drain on their property in Drumcliffe, Co. Sligo. Darragh contacted Tamlyn McHugh, a Community Archaeologist from Fadó Archaeology who is leading the community project, and she was able to identify the archaeological importance of the object and report it to the National Museum of Ireland.

Subsequent analysis of the pendant by Nessa O’Connor, Archaeologist and Assistant Keeper of Irish Antiquities at the National Museum of Ireland, suggests that the object may be a small stone tool made of jasper that would have been worn around the neck and used to polish stone axes, or it could be a Bronze Age archer’s stone wrist-bracer, which may have been repurposed into a pendant. This was not Darragh’s first find: he had previously identified a Bronze Age fulacht fiadh – or burnt mound (see CA 256) – also on his father’s land.

Neolithic rock art was recently discovered on the Cloghcor portal tomb. CREDIT: courtesy Ciaran McHugh Photography

Another recent discovery was made by Tamlyn herself while she was doing a video interview for the Sligo Community Archaeology Project at the Neolithic Cloghcor portal tomb. While talking with the landowner, Leo Leydon, Tamlyn spotted some previously unidentified rock art on one of the large boulders used to support the capstone of the monument. After dark, accompanied by a torch and a photographer, Tamlyn was more able to appreciate and capture the art, making out a series of cupmarks etched into the surface, along with a possible rosette design. This discovery is particularly exciting, as rock art on portal tombs in Ireland is quite rare: this new find adds to only a few known examples.

Further discoveries in Co. Sligo this past year include two previously unrecorded shell middens – found by Eimear Healy and Daithi Bradley, residents of Rosses Point – as well as numerous querns, including one brought ashore from Oyster Island by members of the North West Sea Kayaking Association. Through the community project, the middens have now been successfully reported to the Archaeological Survey of Ireland, while the querns have been recorded by the National Museum of Ireland and are now part of their collections there.

Along with helping the public engage with their local archaeological environment, the Sligo Community Archaeology Project aims to increase awareness and appreciation of Sligo archaeology through seminars, field trips, and workshops. You can follow their work on their Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ Sligo-Community-Archaeology-Project-101314141577773.

This news article appears in issue 370 of Current Archaeology. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.

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