Hellfire Club Archaeological Project Week Four

Hellfire Club Archaeological Project Week Four

Hellfire Club Archaeological Project: Week Four Update

This year’s dig at the Hellfire Club has finished, and we have made some really exciting discoveries. So now the excavation is complete the process of post-excavation analysis begins!

The excavation was a fantastic experience, and we’d like to take the opportunity to thank our wonderful excavation team of
Ros Ó’Maoldúin, Lee Scotland, Brí Greene and volunteers Mark Heffernan, Stephen Matthews, Laura O’Gorman, Christina Hughes and Michala Nagyova and of course Róisín Burke for all of her essential work behind the scenes. We’d also like to thank Rosaleen Dwyer and South Dublin County Council, Jesper Petersen and Coillte and the Dublin Mountains Partnership, Prof Muiris O’Sullivan, Dr Steve Davis, Conor MacDermott and University College Dublin, the Discovery Programme, Earthsound Geophysics, Ken Williams and Dr Elizabeth Shee Twohig for all of their invaluable help and support throughout the project.

We’d especially like to thank everyone who came to visit us during the excavation, from locals, dog walkers, schools and local historians –we felt so incredibly welcome and honoured to help to tell the story of this remarkable place.

So what’s next for the Hellfire Club Archaeological Project?

Now that the excavation is complete, we begin the long process of post-excavation analysis.  In the short-term, we must write a Preliminary Report.  This brief document will essentially outline what we did, why we did it, and what we found.  In the meantime, all of the artefacts, soil samples and charcoal will be sent to the relevant experts who will analyse the material and send us back reports.  This information, along with any radiocarbon dates, will be included in a Final Report that will be produced within the year.  We will continue to make all the information available online through our website here so please do stay in touch.

Discovering the Stories of the Hellfire Club – A Folklore Research Project

This is one of the really exciting aspects of the project that we are looking forward to.  Alongside Rosaleen Dwyer of South Dublin County Council, we’ll be helping transition year students from Tallaght Community School to research and record all of the folklore and traditions of the Hellfire Club from the local areas.  We hope to start that process soon, so we’ll certainly keep you up to date here.

Will there be future excavations at the Hellfire Club?

We certainly hope so.  This year’s excavation has conclusively proven that at least part of the tomb still survives, so there is much more information that can be discovered from the site.  The two big questions I would love to answer are;

1) Does the tomb have any particular alignment (either to a landscape feature or astronomically)?

This is one of the key questions that further excavation may be able to answer.  Unfortunately the stones that once lined the passageway and burial chamber appear to be completely removed, being large flat stones they would have been particularly useful building material.  However, though we might not find the stones that lined the passageway, we might be able to find the sockets that the stones once stood in, allowing us to identify any possible alignment.

2) What is the nature and period of the second tomb?

The second tomb on site appears to have been even more thoroughly destroyed than the first, however the geophysical survey hints that sub-surface features may still survive.  It would be really interesting to discover what type of monument it was and to see if it was contemporary with the larger tomb.  If they are contemporary, does that suggest that there was a hierarchical or societal system to burial (one type of person in the larger tomb, another type of person in the smaller)?  Or if they are from different time periods, what does that say about former societies belief in Mount Pelier Hill being a sacred space?
There’s certainly a lot more to discover, and perhaps the post-excavation analysis might give us even more questions to follow!  Any future excavation will be carried out subject to funding and only in accordance with best-practice and under licence from the National Monuments Service and National Museum of Ireland, and with the support of Coillte, Dublin Mountains Partnership and South Dublin County Council.

About the Author:

Neil is the managing director of Abarta Heritage. Neil is an experienced and licensed archaeologist who has excavated sites all over Ireland. He has authored many articles and publications to help promote Irish heritage, and has recently authored a guidebook for Ireland’s Ancient East for Collins Press. He is a member of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, and a board member of the Institute of Archaeologists of Ireland. Neil is passionate about helping to tell the story of Irish archaeology, history and culture in accessible and engaging ways.


  1. Mary Quinlan 24/01/2017 at 8:50 pm - Reply

    Thanks for all the information. wondering if you actually did find bone or charcoal for dating purposes? Thanks again and will keep a check on the web site to what you have learned from post excavation.

    • Neil Jackman 25/01/2017 at 10:17 am - Reply

      Hi Mary,
      We did find charcoal at the base of the cairn so we have great hopes that we might be able to obtain a radiocarbon date from that. We are currently carrying out sieving and environmental processing to separate the charcoal from the soil it was found in, the retrieved charcoal will then be sent for identification to a specialist to let us know what sort of tree it came from. Following identification, we will be able to send it for radiocarbon dating. Fingers crossed we should get a result in the Spring.

  2. Claire 25/02/2017 at 12:09 am - Reply


    This all sounds very interesting, are there any further updates on your findings?

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