Saturday 18 January 2020

Significant bronze age sites discovered in Wexford

This image shows the site near Tacumshane which has been described as ‘very significant’. Pic: Sky Pix
This image shows the site near Tacumshane which has been described as ‘very significant’. Pic: Sky Pix
This aerial image by Declan Colfer captures the site of an ancient settlement in Tintern

Brendan Keane

Bronze age sites have been discovered in South Wexford and while a section of one of them was already documented it has now been found to be much more extensive than previously thought after drone images captured the full scale of the settlement as a direct result of the recent dry weather spell.

The images of the site, near Tacumshane, were captured by Paid Bates from SkyPix Aerial Works and a leading archaeologist has described the find as 'an amazing and significant discovery'.

Speaking to this newspaper Mr Bates said the current drought led to very clear markings showing up in the aerial view of the ancient site.

He also said it's not the only area at which new markings have been discovered with two more sites showing up in the Fethard-on-Sea and Screen areas of the county.

'When I found this new site I sent the images to the National Monuments Service to verify it was undocumented,' said Mr Bates.

He also contacted Catherine McLoughlin from Stafford McLoughlin Archaeology who, having viewed the images, confirmed to this newspaper that much of what Mr Bates captured was undocumented evidence.

'It really is a very significant discovery and the site is much more extensive than was previous thought,' she said.

'The weather conditions at the moment are ideal and with drone technology like Paid's there are discoveries being made all over Europe,' she added.

What makes the site near Tacumshane really significant is the fact that it appears to cross over a number of different periods and according to Ms McLoughlin there is evidence of possible bronze-age and iron-age activity in addition to possible Medieval habitation as well.

'A lot of sites around the country are recorded and there is extensive information on but images like these from Paid are adding greatly to our knowledge,' said Ms McLoughlin.

'This site is far more extensive than what we thought,' she added.

Sites are often dated based on the shapes and forms discovered on them but with the Tacumshane site there is evidence of circle enclosures, possible ring forts and a circle within an enclosure.

'There is also evidence of field systems and we can see how agriculture has developed and improved because nowadays fields are much bigger than they would have been even in the 18th and 19th centuries let alone back further than that,' said Ms McLoughlin.

'At this site there is evidence of bronze-age or iron-age and possibly early Medieval activity,' she added.

'It really is amazing and it's exciting to view the images in detail.'

She went on to comment that some aspects of the site could have been habitual as well as ritual.

Ms McLoughlin said that in some cases there are visible clues to be found at ground level where standing crops are sown because the areas where the earth would have been cut to make the enclosures hundreds and thousands of years ago retain more moisture and this is sometimes evident in modern-day crops.

However, the intricate detail of the site in Tacumshane and its size are really only visible from the aerial shots.

'They really are the most fantastic images and there is a lot of things on there that have never been recorded before so that is very important,' said Ms McLoughlin.

She praised Mr Bates for capturing the site and she added that the images were indicative of how drone technology can be used in a very positive way - especially to help archaeologists.

'It's amazing to see what are now just sleepy fields and to think they were once part of a thriving community and were substantially populated in the past,' she said.

There are no plans to excavate the Tacumshane site at the moment as it is part of a working farm.

Images of the site near Fethard-on-Sea were also captured by Mr Bates and local farmer, Declan Colfer also got aerial views of the site. The initial images indicate there was a substantial circle enclosure in the area in ancient times.

Ms McLoughlin said it's an exciting time at present for archaeology and it's expected that more undocumented sites might appear around County Wexford in the coming weeks if the dry weather spell currently gripping the entire country continues.

Wexford People

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