GLOSSARY OF ARCHAEOLOGICAL TERMS

General

An Bord PleanálaAn Bord Pleanála is responsible for the determination of appeals and certain other matters under Ireland's Planning and Development Acts.
Code of PracticeThe Code of Practice is an agreement between the Minister (formally of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands but now the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government) and the National Roads Authority acting on behalf of the Authority and the local authorities in relation to archaeology and the development of national roads.
ChainageRoad scheme centreline distance in metres from scheme start point to finish, in this case south-north.
CPOCompulsory Purchase Order used to compulsorily acquire land required for the development, in this case a road.
Discovery ProgrammeAn archaeological research institution dedicated to investigating Ireland's past from earliest times and presenting the results to as wide an audience as possible.
DúchasDúchas The Heritage Service of the Irish Government. The use of the name Dúchas was formally discontinued in 2003 and its tasks are now the responsibility of the National Monuments Service of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.
DOEHLGNational Monuments Section, Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, National Monuments Section.
Grade Separated JunctionA junction between two or more roads which pass across each other at different levels.
LandtakeThe land acquired for the road development.
LicenceExcavation licence, archaeological excavation requires a licence granted by the Minister of the DoEHLG following consultation with the NMI.
NGRNational Grid Reference.
OSOrdnance Survey.
Plot No.Individual numbers assigned to all landholding being acquired by the CPO.
RoadtakeThe outer edge of the road including any embankment.

ARCHAEOLOGICAL TERMS

Aerial SurveyAerial survey is a method of collecting information by utilising aerial photography.It is conducted using cameras attached to aircraft, balloons or even kites. A bird's-eye view is useful for quick mapping of large or complex sites. Aerial imaging can also detect many things not visible from the surface. Plants growing above a stone structure, such as a wall, will develop more slowly, while those above other types of features (such as middens) may develop more rapidly. Photographs of ripening grain, which changes colour rapidly at maturation, have revealed buried structures with great precision.
Anglo-NormanThe Anglo-Normans were the descendents of the Normans who ruled England following the conquest by William of Normandy in AD 1066. AD 1169 marks the invasion of Ireland by the Anglo-Normans.
Archaeological ExcavationThe systematic uncovering of archaeological remains through the removal of the deposits of soil and the other material covering them and accompanying them.Archaeological excavation is the principle method by which archaeological remains are preserved by record. It is by its very nature destructive, therefore, if the information contained in the archaeological deposits is to be preserved they must be meticulously excavated and recorded: each change in soil colour and/or texture is noted, samples are taken to be analysed for any organic remains, and finds recorded as to exactly where they were found. The aim of archaeological excavation is to preserve through record the archaeological deposits that are being destroyed through excavation. Ideally this means that should you so want to you could recreate the site.
Archaeological LandscapeA term used to define the historic and archaeological dimensions of the present day landscape. A 'landscape' study would try to explain how and why the landscape looks as it does and identifies the 'time depth' in order to facilitate sustainable management. An archaeological landscape is most simply defined in terms of archaeological complexes, which can be defined as significant clusters of sites either synchronic (contemporary) or diachronic (different periods re-using the same place). In such a study the space between the monuments is also fundamental to understanding their importance and integrity. The key aspect is to identify the particular character and significance of the whole.
Archaeological MonitoringArchaeological monitoring involves 'an archaeologist being present in the course of the carrying-out of the development works (which may include conservation works), so as to identify and protect archaeological deposits, features or objects which may be uncovered or otherwise affected by the works' (DAHGI 1999a, 28).
Archaeological ResolutionThe preservation by record of all archaeological remains.
Archaeological siteAn archaeological site is a place (or group of physical sites) in which evidence of past activity is preserved (either prehistoric or historic).
Archaeological Testing'Test excavation is that form of archaeological excavation where the purpose is to establish the nature and extent of archaeological deposits and features present in a location which it is proposed to develop (though not normally to fully investigate those deposits or features) and allow an assessment to be made of the archaeological impact of the proposed development. It may also be referred to as archaeological testing' (DAHGI 1999a, 27).
ArtefactAn object used, modified or made by humans for example, a flint tool.
BaronyName given to administrative subdivisions of counties, although they are no longer used for local government. It is thought to be an Anglo-Norman division although its precise origin is unknown. There are generally between seven and ten baronies per county although Cork has twenty and Louth has only four. A barony can occupy parts of two counties in which case it is referred to as a half barony. There are 331 baronies in Ireland.
BarrowCircular burial monument of the Bronze Age and Iron Age with a central area defined by a ditch and an external bank.
Bronze AgeThe period in prehistory after the Neolithic period characterised by the development of bronze and its use, especially for weapons and tools. In Ireland, the Bronze Age lasted from around c.2200- c. 600 BC
CairnMound composed of stones, sometimes with internal structures; usually a burial monument, but sometimes used as a memorial.
CashelA stone walled ringfort.
Castle and TowerHouseAnglo-Norman medieval fortresses, often with an associated defended bawn (settlement) area.
Cemetery and CillínWide variety of burial grounds. A Cillín is an unconsecrated burial ground used for burying un-baptised children.
Cemetery moundCovering mounds that contain Bronze Age burials and frequently overlie older monuments.
Ceremonial circle and enclosure / hengeVariously interpreted and dated prehistoric meeting places for ritual or astronomical use.
CistBox-shaped stone-lined grave, usually from the Bronze Age. Similar to unlined 'Pit' burials.
Coastal and inland promontory and cliff fortAreas defended or at least cut off by a short stretch of rampart and ditch from the adjacent landward side, and protected on all other sides by the natural fall-away of ground or cliffs.
Conceptual landscapeAn elusive and controversial aspect of landscape, this element considers the meaning of the behaviours in cultural contexts past and present. While obviously related to the memorial and modern landscapes, the conceptual perspective represents the philosophical foundation that provides the conscious or unconscious motivations for preserving or ignoring a given physical site. The use and abuse of historical reality to promote a broader mythology are primary examples of the conceptual landscape. Several conflicting conceptual landscapes may coexist.
ConstraintsThe initial stage of the planning process of a new road. A proposed road scheme may cover a vast geographical area. Archaeologists highlight all known sites of archaeological importance so that where possible they can be avoided.
ContextArtefacts can provide us with a lot of information about the past and people in the past. However, objects by themselves can only tell part of the story. Central to an archaeological understanding of the past is the context of these objects - that is where they were found, what kind of deposit were they found in, where stratigraphically they fit in with other artefacts.
CorbellingSlabs fitted together, with successive layers built inwards to create a domed effect; found in megalithic tombs and in some early churches and souterrains.
Crop markWhere archaeological features may not be visible on the ground they can sometimes be identified from variation in crop growth visible in aerial photographs. This is because where features have been cut into the ground and filled up, the soil filling them is often richer than the soil surrounding, therefore the plants growing in the features grow larger than those in the surrounding field. Similarly where constructed features such as walls are present, the soil is shallower and the plants grow less. Crop marks are particularly visible in dry summers when the plants stay greener in the deeper soil of cut features and ripen quicker in the shallower soil over structures.
Cultural landscapeA landscape created by people and their culture, simultaneously the product of nature and of human interaction with nature. It is essentially the product of human activity over time modifying the landscape for their own purpose, and is an aggregation of human-made features such as a village, farmland, waterways, transportation corridors, and other artefacts.
Demesne The land around a mansion belonging to an estate. This land was retained by a lord for his own use, as opposed to that granted to sub-tenants.
Deserted settlementMedieval or post-medieval settlement that is now deserted. Irish examples do not seem to necessarily contain a church or marketplace.
Desk-based SurveyThis is purely a data gathering exercise and may be the first stage of an archaeological investigation before any further approach to preserve the archaeology is taken. This involves bringing together all the documentary information that is related to the site such as information held in the SMR, old maps and plans, previous excavations in the area and historical documentary sources.
DúnA ringfort, usually with earthen banks, but a name also given toprehistoric ceremonial enclosures.
Early Medieval Traditionally dated to between the introduction of Christianity and the arrival of the Anglo-Normans (c. AD 400 and 1200). The first of the dates reflects not only the arrival of Christianity but also the beginning of the historic period in Ireland when events are recorded in writing. The latter date reflects a major change with the introduction of feudalism.
Early ModernPeriod of history from c. AD 1800 to present.
EarthworkAny monument made entirely or largely of earth.
Ecclesiastical remainsIsolated cross-slabs, fonts, tomb-stones etc which are not definitely associated with a particular structure.
EnclosureAny monument consisting of an enclosing feature, such as a bank or a ditch, usually earthen, such as barrows or ringforts.
Environmental Impact Statement (EIS)An EIS is a description of the likely effects on the environment of the proposed road development. At EIS stage archaeologists carry out more in-depth research of the area of the proposed road scheme. This work will include a field-walking survey of all archaeological sites (known and newly identified), more detailed aerial survey, geophysical survey and refined historical searches. According to law, every large scale road planning application must include an EIS.
EstateExtensive landed property (especially in the country) retained by the owner for his own use
FeatureAn archaeological feature is a stratigraphic change which is the result of a past event or action as opposed to the steady accumulation of natural deposits; for example a darker area of soil indicative of a posthole, a pit or a ditch. Not all stratigraphic anomalies described as features are human-made, some may be of uncertain origin and can only be determined through careful excavation; for example sometimes what initially look like pits may actually be the result of tree roots or animal burrows.
FeudalismPolitical and economic system in which a king or queen shared power with the nobility, who required services from the common people in return for allowing them to use the noble's land.
Field systemPattern of fields, now no longer in use, sometimes visible as low earthworks and often associated with medieval or earlier settlements.
Field-walkingField-walking involves the controlled collection of visible objects through walking over the land in a structured way, often through dividing the area into transects so that any items found can be located within the landscape.
FosseA ditch.
Fulacht fiadh / Burnt MoundCooking / boiling sites characterised by a mound of burnt stones and charcoal and an accompanying trough and occasional hearth (for heating stones to be dropped into the water to heat it). Usually built in damp areas, where the trench for cooking in would fill with water; usually found in groups (plural: fulachta fiadh).Almost wholly dating to the Bronze Age and one of the most common sites in Ireland.
Geophysical Survey Geophysical survey is the most effective way to see beneath the ground surface without having to disturb the ground. There are a variety of geophysical survey techniques that have been developed and refined since they were first used in the 1940s. The techniques have been increasingly used in recent years and have been particularly effective in development control archaeology when large greenfield sites are being developed. Not all these techniques work well in the disturbed and intense stratigraphy of urban sites, and some are highly specialised.Magnetometer survey, resistivity survey and ground penetrating radar (GPR) are probably the most commonly used techniques. Magnetometers detect minute deviations in the Earth's magnetic field caused by iron artefacts, kilns, some types of stone structures, and even ditches and middens. Devices that measure the electrical resistivity of the soil are also widely used. Most soils are moist below the surface, which gives them a relatively low resistivity. Features such as hard-packed floors or concentrations of stone have a higher resistivity.
HillfortLarge Late Bronze Age/Iron Age defensive hilltop enclosure defined by one or more large ramparts and consisting of banks with external ditches.
Historic Related to the past as known from or recorded in the written record. The introduction of Christianity into Ireland in the early 5th century AD resulted as well in the introduction of the Roman alphabet in which the Irish language was recorded by monks.
Historic landscapeThe historic dimensions of the present day landscape.
HistoryThe study of the past through the written record.
Holy wellA natural spring or well associated with a saint or a tradition of cures.
Iron AgePeriod of prehistory between c. 600 BC to c. 400 AD.
Kerbing / kerbstonesLarge stones placed around the edge of a cairn or mound to define and consolidate the monument-a retaining wall; in passage tombs, they can be decorated with art.
LandscapeA collection of natural and cultural features that characterise a particular district or region; a portion of the earth's surface that can be taken in from a single viewpoint at ground level.It is defined by the European Landscape Convention (Article 1, 38) as a zone or area as perceived by local people or visitors, whose visual features and character are the result of the action of natural and / or cultural (that is, human) factors. This definition reflects the idea that landscapes evolve through time, as a result of being acted upon by natural forces and human beings. It also underlines that a landscape forms a whole, whose natural and cultural components are taken together, not separately.European Landscape Convention (Article 1, 42):In seeking the right balance between protection, management and planning of a landscape, it should be remembered that the aim is not the preservation or 'freezing' of the landscape at a particular point in its lengthy evolution. Landscapes have always changed and will continue to change, both through natural processes and through human action. In fact, the aim should be to manage future changes in a way which recognises the great diversity and the quality of the landscapes that we inherit and which seeks to preserve, or even enhance, that diversity and quality instead of allowing them to decline.
Linear earthworkA long bank or ditch, often a territorial boundary such as the Pale or a prehistoric cursus monument; can be of any date, but often lateprehistoric. British and continental versions are usually territorial or military, defensive demarcations in the landscape (eg 'the Vallum' of Hadrian's Wall).
Medieval Period of history dating to between 1169-1600AD.
Medieval stone headOften used as corbelled ends of window surrounds, usually associated with castles. Often dated to the 16th century.
Medieval town defencesWalls, gates and towers that once encircled medieval towns.
Megalithic tombLiterally 'large stone'. Communal burial tombs during the Neolithic period, characterised by a burial chamber usually constructed of unhewn stones and covered by a mound of earth or stones. 1400 Megalithic tombs were known in Ireland by 1991.
MesolithicPeriod of prehistory c. 7000- c. 4000 BC
MiddenThe accumulation of debris and domestic waste products resulting from human use. The long-term disposal of refuse can result in stratified deposits, which are useful for relative dating. At [ancient] settlements, a midden was the place where people discarded broken pots and tools, ashes, food remains, and other items that were thrown out or left behind. Because of this, middens are great places for archaeologists to find out how people lived and what they cooked and made at a site.
MitigationMeasures taken to reduce or off-set the impact of a proposed development on the archaeological resource. These can include design modification or further archaeological investigation.
MonitoringSee Archaeological Monitoring.
Moated siteAn Anglo-Norman defended homestead consisting of a square orrectangular enclosure defined by a bank and a broad, flat-bottomed ditch; date to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries and often built in damp land in order that the moat would fill with water.
MonumentIncludes any artificial or partly artificial building, structure or erection whether above or below the surface of the ground and whether affixed or not affixed to the ground and any cave, stone or natural product whether forming part of or attached to or not attached to the ground which has been artificially carved, sculptured or worked upon or which (where it does not form part of the ground) appears to have been purposely put or arranged in position and any prehistoric or ancient tomb, grave or burial deposit, but does not include any building which is for the time being habitually used for ecclesiastical purposes. (1930 National Monuments Act)
MotteArtificial raised mound capped by a military, defensive structure, usually associated with the Anglo-Norman Lordship of 12th - 14th century AD. Often placed to defend cross-roads and settlements. Sometimes with an associated defended bailey (settlement area) [See Motte and bailey].
Motte and baileyAn Anglo-Norman defensive structure consisting of a large, steep-sided earthen mound-the motte-with a rectangular enclosure at the base- the bailey; date from the twelfth and thirteenth centuries.
MoundAre practically indistinguishable from tumuliexcept that some doubt is attached to their being prehistoric burial mounds.
MultivallateOf ringforts and hillforts with more than two sets of ramparts.
National MonumentA monument or the remains of a monument the preservation of which is a matter of national importance by reason of the historical, architectural, traditional, artistic, or archaeological interest attaching thereto. (1930 National Monuments Act)
NeolithicThe Neolithic, or New Stone Age, is when many innovations were introduced, including monument building, the first engineering projects, the use of pottery and, most importantly, the domestication of plants and animals so that hunter-gathering was no longer the only or perhaps even the main way of obtaining food. In Ireland, the Neolithic lasted from around c. 4000 to c. 2200 BC
Occupation siteA settlement site; the term is usually used to indicate a prehistoric site.
Osteology and OsteoarchaeologyOsteology is the study of the anatomy and biology of bones and the skeleton to aid in the identification and cause of death of skeletal remains. Osteoarchaeologists are osteologists who are trained in archaeological techniques to do with the recovery of ancient remains.
PalaeontologyThe branch of science that deals with extinct and fossilised animals and plants. It includes palaeobotany, palynology and zooarchaeology.
Passage tombMegalithic tomb dating to the Neolithic characterized by an oval or circular mound, kerbing, and a passage, often terminating with a chamber in which cremated burials were placed; often situated on hilltops.
Post-excavationOnce artefacts and structures have been excavated, or collected from field-walking surveys, it is necessary to properly study them, to gain as much data as possible. This process is known as post-excavation analysis, and is normally the most time-consuming part of the archaeological investigation. It is not uncommon for the final excavation reports on major sites to take years to be published. At its most basic, the artefacts found are cleaned, catalogued and compared to published collections, in order to classify them typologically and to identify other sites with similar artefact assemblages. However, a much more comprehensive range of analytical techniques are available through archaeological science, meaning that artefacts can be dated and their compositions examined. The bones, plants and pollen collected from a site can all be analysed (using the techniques of zooarchaeology, palaeobotany and palynology), while any texts can usually be deciphered. These techniques frequently provide information that would not otherwise be known and therefore contribute greatly to the understanding of a site.
PostholeA posthole, as the name suggests, is a hole in which the supporting post of a structure once stood. They tend to show up in archaeological excavations as a circular patch of darker soil.
They are important to archaeology as they can show exactly where a building or structure once stood. On larger sites they can show how the area was once used and can be used to recreate the structure they once housed.
Post-medievalPeriod of history between 1600-1800 AD.
PrehistoricThe period of time before written records (in Ireland c. 7000 BC and c. 400 AD).
RathA ringfort, usually with earthen banks, or any circular enclosure.
ResolutionSee Archaeological Resolution.
Ring barrowBarrow with raised or domed central area.
Ring ditchBarrow with flat or dished central area.
RingfortEarly Christian defended settlement consisting of a bank and external ditch defining a central circular area; also called fairy fort, rath, lios, or cashel. They are one of the most conspicuous and certainly the most prolific type of monument in the Irish Countryside (30,000 - 40,000 known examples in 1991).
RitualA ceremony or rite; the prescribed form or order for a religious or solemn ceremony.
RMPRecord of Monuments and Places. All known sites and monuments (recorded monuments) are identified and listed for protection by the National Monuments and Historic Properties Service of the DoEHLG, in the Record of Monuments and Places (RMP), a statutory inventory of sites protected under the National Monuments Acts (1930-1994). Sites listed in the RMP are marked on Ordnance Survey 6" maps for each of the 26 counties. An accompanying index shows all known sites, monuments and zones of archaeological potential, recorded to date in each county.
Route SelectionAn integral part in the planning process of a new road which follows the Constraints stage. A number of corridors emerge in the landscape within which more specific route options develop. At this stage archaeologists carry out further work such as site visits, aerial photography and historical study including more refined cartographic searches. At the end of this stage, what is called the emerging Preferred Route is established.
Royal demesneRoyal demesne was the land retained by the king.
SMRSites and Monuments Record - consists of a list of known archaeological sites. Each record lists the location, type and period of a site along with a brief description and information on the location of more detailed sources of information such as site reports.
SouterrainUnderground passages, probably built for storage purposes or possibly as temporary refuges; often associated with ringforts. These artificial underground structures are built of drystone walling and covered with large stone lintels or cut into bedrock or hard boulder clay. Some are built partly or entirely of wood. Most appear to date to the early medieval period, especially 8th - 10th C AD.
Standing stoneUpright stone, usually single but sometimes in pairs and groups. They can be shaped or natural and are usually dated to the Bronze Age but occasionally to the Neolithic. Possibly used to mark routes, sacred areas, or, very occasionally, burials.
StratigraphyStratigraphy is the continual build-up of material layers (strata) one upon the other. The process of deposition means that the top layer is the most recently deposited (hence the youngest) whilst the bottom layer was the first to be deposited and is the oldest. Archaeologists strip these layers off in sequence starting with the most recent deposit at the top.Pottery and coins are used to date other material found in the same layer. This sequence can then be used to create a relationship across the site and give information about how an area was used during a specific period. Groups of deposits can be put together to define phases of activity.Some stratigraphy is easily identifiable - soil to wall - whilst others are not. These can include subtle changes in the soil colour, texture and composition (high / low levels of inclusions of mortar, charcoal, stones, etc).
TestingSee Archaeological Testing.
Tower houseSmall castle, usually of three storeys, dating from the fourteenth tosixteenth centuries.
TruncationWhere an archaeological feature has been partly cut away by a later feature or features.
Tumulus (plural: tumuli)Burial mound composed of earth, sometimes with internal structures. The mounds are of varying size, frequently encountered in County Meath, which are likely to contain prehistoric burials, but are of uncertain date or type. They have no distinguishing features such as kerbs, fosses or outer banks and might be passage tombs, contain Bronze Age cist (box-shaped stone-lined grave) burials or be Iron Age. On the other hand they might be burials of the Linkardstown type (containing coffin shaped, stone lined graves), none of which can be positively identified in County Meath.
UnivallateOf ringfort and hillforts, with a single set of ramparts.

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