Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tyrone Dig - Day 3

The beginning of the end.  Today was a very technical day.  The drawings were made, measurements taken, surveys done.  As much as I miss home, I don’t want to leave.  There’s more to the story.  We began filling in a trench and returning it to the way it was 4 days ago.  I had the same feeling that I did in Lowell.  It’s a bit sad.  I’m not one for good-byes, too final.  It means that there is and, that I don’t want to happen yet.  For some reason I feel an affinity for this place called Crossan.  Maybe it’s just romanticizing an ideal.  Or maybe it’s identifying with something we all long for- to find out where we came from.  I’m beginning to know Hugh more as a person than a historical figure.  And leaving now leaves a void- too many unanswered questions.  I wish he was standing next to me in the cow pasture so we could have a good chat.

As it rained today we all gathered inside the old homestead.  Someone shared the idea that Hugh must have done that many times before he decided to leave; sitting by the fireplace, listening to the rain dripping from the thatched roof, questioning if this was his destiny. 

We had a number of visitors today.  Ronan Mc Hugh from Queen’s and the Lowell digs came to survey the buildings.  Emily Murray also from Queen’s who has been helping with the dig said her good-byes.  It amazes me that the two folks always take the time to explain what they are doing to a neophyte as myself.  They are there as archaeologists as well as educators.  I have a newfound respect for the science of archaeology.

Lynn McKeer, from Queen’s and the Lowell Cemetery project, also stopped by, in the middle of the rain.  She reminded me this was a way of life in Ireland.  We  had a great time at St Pat’s last April.  Eileen, Lynn, and myself are still working on all the data from that visit.  Lynn was kind enough o bring “a box of buns.”  At the end of the dig the team literally scoffed the goodies down.  I tried a 15, don’t know what it is, but I’m hooked.

Oliver Donnelly, the land owner, brought Pat over.  He’s a local farmer who knew the last family who lived in this place.  You could see him looking around remembering it as it was many years ago.  He recalled the fireplace and loft.  There was a moment when he held onto the well peering into the home.  You could see he was back in time, and ran his hands along the stones.  He spoke of the pride the family had of their white-washed home and the chickens that ran on the very ground we excavated.  Oliver and Pat have a love for this land, and we are privileged to share that with this, at least for this week.

Frank Talty and Patty have returned from their University duties in Donegal.  Tomorrow is our last day at Crossans.  Lastly, I asked Dermot to write his notes for the day and share with you a day in the life of an archaeologist.
Trench 2 was opened to explore the associated features with the original byre house (This being a type of house common in rural Ireland in the 17th and 18th centuries, half of the house occupied by the humans, and half was for the animals). In this type of house, a drain is normally present, coming out from the door of the house, used to drain the waste from the animals away from the living quarters. A 2m x 1m trench was opened across the door of the house, which it was thought would hopefully catch this expected drain feature.
                Excavation revealed a large deposit of stones, directly in front of the house, along the whole length of the trench. This layer was termed c.202/203. It consisted of smaller stones, packed between four larger revetment type stones, used to hold the smaller stones together. This layer was interpreted as being used to create a step up into the house, not contemporary with when the house was being occupied by humans, but probably associated with its more recent function, being used solely to house animals. Beyond this layer, with the opposite side of the trench, a yard like surface, c.209 was discovered, interpreted as being older than the stone deposit c.202/203.
                When this stone layer was removed, a cut into the subsoil was evident. Once this cut was cleared out to its fullest extent, it was clear that we had in fact come across the drain feature. The stone deposit seems to have been added to fill up the drain once it was no longer was required.
                We can therefore be confident that our primary interpretations of the sequence of building which occurred were correct. The byre house being the first home constructed here, most likely in the late 18th century, before later being extended into the larger house, of which the remains of which we can see today.

Dermot Redmond
Post-graduate student, Queens University Belfast

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