Hellfire Club Archaeological Project; Week Three
Things began to get really exciting in the third week of the Hellfire Club Archaeological Project. The first trench has continued, with more flint and charcoal being discovered within a very clay-like layer near the base of the trench at the south of the tomb. We have taken a number of soil samples, and hopefully when analysed they may provide charcoal suitable for radiocarbon dating. We will also send samples for pollen analysis. By studying the pollen trapped within the soil, we can understand the nature of the environment that surrounded the site and see if there were forests nearby, what type of plants surrounded the site, and even possibly what type of crops were grown in the vicinity.
The first trench even revealed solid evidence of the destruction and plunder of the site in the early 1800s. We uncovered a very large stone, measuring some 2.5 metres (approximately 8 feet long). This stone possibly once formed part of the burial chamber of the tomb, and sat within a large pit. When Ros excavated the pit, he found pieces of early modern glass near the base. Evidence that around 200 years ago, someone tried to dig out the stone to take it away for construction material. So in a sense we have caught the workmen red handed 200 years later! They perhaps gave up when they saw the full size of the stone, and it will be equally difficult for us to move it.
The second trench has revealed what appears to be more of the cairn material. While removing a mixed deposit related to the destruction of the tomb, Stephen found a wonderful polished stone axehead that is likely to be at least 5,000 years old. The axe had presumably been unknowingly disturbed by the workmen who constructed the Hellfire Club. They hadn’t noticed (or disregarded) the axe, so it lay there until Stephen found it on Wednesday. The axe is a really beautiful example. We hope to have it confirmed by an expert, but it may be made from porphyry, a type of igneous rock found not far from the site at Lambay Island in Dublin Bay. Axeheads like this one were usually hafted into a wooden shaft. They were made by hours and hours of polishing using water and stone until it forms a beautifully smooth surface. Looking at the cutting edge of our axe it seems like it was never used as it shows no sign of wear or damage. Perhaps it was made deliberately to be buried with a loved one inside the tomb, or perhaps as an offering to the gods or ancestors. It would have been a valuable object at the time, so its deposition here really helps to emphasise the importance of the tomb.