Hellfire Club Artefacts
The objects found during the Hellfire Club dig
When you consider the severe damage suffered by the tomb in the eighteenth century and in subsequent years, it is somewhat astonishing that such an important assemblage of archaeological objects was still recovered. Even more remarkable considering the excavation was so relatively small, with only two trenches. Megalithic art, a possible mushroom-headed pin, a polished stone axehead and a number of lithics are all diagnostic of the Neolithic period, with the pin and megalithic art in particular being typically associated with Irish passage tombs. The megalithic art is a very significant discovery, as it is an important addition to the list of Irish passage tombs known to have had carved stones. Dr Elizabeth Shee Twohig details the art and its significance in the publication.
Along with artefacts pertaining to the Neolithic period, we also identified a number of eighteenth and nineteenth century artefacts, from material relating to the structure and appearance of the Hunting Lodge, such as brick, mortar, glass and tile, to personal items and evidence of consumption, such as a clay tobacco pipe and fragments of bottles and ceramics. Given the nature of the site and its long use as a place for recreation, picnics and parties, we also unsurprisingly found a large amount of detritus from recent decades, such as beer cans and soft drink bottles, plastic rubbish and food wrappers.
All of these artefacts were subject to detailed analysis by a team of specialists, and you can find out the full story in our free publication Sacred Skies and Earthly Sinners; the Hellfire Club Archaeological Project. For more information on the Hellfire Club Archaeological Project please visit the homepage of the project, where you will find links to information on the archaeology, the methods and techniques, the history, and the folklore and myths and legends. You can also find a gallery of photographs of the excavation by Steven Duffy here.
The gallery below contains images and illustrations of a number of the artefacts that were recovered during the course of the Hellfire Club dig. The images are by Ken Williams, Steven Duffy and Neil Jackman. The illustrations are by Sara Nylund.
Interactive 3D Model of the Megalithic Art
Thia Sketchfab model was made by Gary Devlin and Rob Shaw of the Discovery Programme. Gary and Rob kindly visited the site to laser scan the megalithic art, and their work has provided an invaluable recording of this important discovery. As it had been damaged by countless bonfires over the years, the stone bearing the art broke into a number of pieces as soon as we began to move it out of the trench. This model reassembles the stone.
As well as the laser scanning, we also recorded the art through photogrammetry with Ken Williams, and via traditional illustration techniques with Dr Elizabeth Shee Twohig. As the art is so ephemeral and difficult to see, we thought it would be a good opportunity to assess the different techniques. You can find all the detail of the megalithic art, and the different forms of recording, in the free publication Sacred Skies and Earthly Sinners.
Illustration of the Hellfire Club Megalithic Art overlaid on the laser scan (Elizabeth Shee Twohig)