2010 Field Season – Black Friary Day 18 (1-Jul-10)

Blog by Sam Tanji, University of Washington

We got off to a late start this morning, but we got a nice surprise when we pulled into the B&B. Megan is finally out of the hospital and she joined us today, eager to be outside. Today’s field trip day was unusual in that it didn’t start off with a field trip. Expecting poor weather conditions we headed to the house for a morning spent on a walking tour of Trim and a lecture about CRDS’ comprehensive internet database called SPADA.

We split into two groups, the first group, made up of Me, Elle, Ryan, Rob, and Niall set out for the walking tour of Trim, while the second group, made up of Emma, Jessica, Kirsten, Megan, Meg, and Sam stayed behind to learn about SPADA from Gianmarco.

The walking tour started at St. Patrick’s church. St. Patrick’s occupies the highest point in Trim and is the oldest monastic site. A set of remains was found dating to AD 430-650. We learned that Trim means “ford of the Elder Tree”, since Trim is located at a fording point along the then navigable Boyne River.

My group then continued onto Trim Castle by means of the 14th century bridge. After we crossed the bridge Fin showed us where the Franciscan Friary used to be. When we were standing in front of the new court house Fin explained that we were now standing about 120cm above the cemetery of the Franciscan Friary. This prompted Elle to ask why the bodies were not removed. Fin explained it was common practice to leave the bodies undisturbed whenever possible, but that it is important to remember that they are there.

When we were standing in front of the “main” entrance to the castle we noted that it would have opened onto the road leading to the market place and was therefore easily accessible to the town. Fin explained that there was also a second gate that opened to the country side and was heavily fortified to protect against attackers.

The second group’s walking tour of Trim was similar to the first group, with one exception. Instead of going over the old bridge to get to the castle they went to the Yellow Steeple. The Yellow Steeple is part of an Augustinian Friary built in AD1140. It was built on the second highest ground in Trim. The second group’s tour was very rushed and probably about ½ the time of the first group’s tour because we needed to head out to Loughcrew.

While the second group was on their walking tour, Gianmarco explained SPADA, which stands for Spatial Archaeological Database and is the comprehensive online database that CRDS is developing.  He explained that as of now there are only two such data bases, CRDS’ and one in York. An online data base is very useful because everything pertaining to the excavations is online so that all people involved can have access to it. It also provides a way of standardizing the format in which information is entered. Gianmarco  gave an example of a time before the database, when he had to spend two months going through all the data and making sure that the dates were all in a consistent format and that his name was properly spelled so that there weren’t multiple files for his work. He then walked us through SPADA and showed us how user friendly it is.

We then set off on the field trip. We made a quick stop at Loughcrew Gardens for lunch. To our delight and to Fin’s dismay, there was a playground with swings, slides, and a rock climbing wall leading up to a fort. We all turned into little kids. Sam and Emma spun around in circles on swings, Megan, Jessica and I claimed the fort and we wouldn’t let in boys or anyone who didn’t know the password. Fin repeatedly called Sam (not me!) a demented six year old. He then had to prove her wrong and show that he could stand with his head against a wall and pick up a chair. Rob also attempted this but was not as successful.

We once again piled into the vehicles and drove closer to Loughcrew’s Carnbane East before we began the tiring trek to the top of the hill. Carnbane East, also called  Slabah na Cailligne or the Hag’s Mountain, it is the central and highest peak. There is a myth that goes with these mountains. Supposedly there was a witch carrying stones in her apron and as she would jump across the hill, stones would fall out of her apron and created the cairns, before she fell and broke her neck. Our guide Malakey said that the passage tombs date back to 3000BC or older.

Like other passage tombs the chamber is cruciform in shape with a cobbled ceiling and as usual the right cell was larger. The passage tomb was also created using the same materials as Newgrange and Knowth, the stone traveling a great distance before being used. However, unlike Knowth and Newgrange, the artwork within the passage tomb is called “busy stones’ because there is so much going on in each of the megaliths.  There is also what appears to anthropomorphic images on some of them. Loughcrew lacks the basin stones commonly found at other passage graves, but instead there are small fitted stones at the opening of the cells. There are six satellite tombs surrounding the passage tomb. These are unique because they are not cruciform in shape, meaning that it is possible that they are older than the ones at Knowth and Newgrange. We observed one with four cells and one that was y shaped, others were covered in grass and their shape was difficult to tell.

We had lots of fun exploring the mountain top and most of us climbed to the top of the passage tomb so that we could get a look at the gorgeous country side around us. Being the remarkable archaeologist that she is Kirsten found the tiny earring that Emma had lost in the grass. Lots of pictures were taken by everyone and we had a great time.

We finally loaded back into the cars and most of us were ready to go home, but Megan really wanted to see the four stones in the middle of a field because she was reluctant to return home after spending so many days inside. On the way home, in Fin’s car we figured out how old everyone in the Caravelle is. From oldest to youngest I think the order was Sam, me, Elle, Kirsten, Meg, Megan and Emma, but I could be wrong. In Niall’s car they had a deep conversation about all things Irish, while Jessica dozed and watched the trees pass by. We were all exhausted by the time we made it home and in need of relaxation, thank goodness for Bulmers!

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About blackfriary

The Irish Archaeology Field School (IAFS) is Ireland’s leading provider of university accredited, site based archaeological research and training. The Blackfriary research project is part of a community archaeology project, based in Trim, Co. Meath. Blackfriary is a 13th century Dominican abbey site; the archaeology includes the buried remains of the medieval abbey and graveyard. Students that participate in the excavation experience and practice all aspects of archaeological excavation processes, learning from experts and leaders in their field, and contribute to an established archaeological research project. IAFS have been excavating at Blackfriary since 2010; students participating have come from all over the works including the Australia, Canada, Europe and the USA.
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