Friday, 20 February 2015

The Curragh, Co. Kildare: over 30 unrecorded features and possible features

- Unfortunately, due to the heavy picture-content of these pages, this blog might not be suited to mobile browsing
- Throughout this blog, GE stands for Google Earth and SMR for Site and Monument Records held by the DOENI.
Click to enlarge all pictures in this post. Pictures are best viewed in darker conditions (details and faint features will not be visible in GE while in a sunny room for instance). Also bear in mind that the images here are copies and extractions from GE, a process which already invariably causes a loss in definition.
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Welcome back,

To illustrate the fact that smaller archaeological features can also be discovered using Google Earth, this post will focus on the Curragh, Co. Kildare, an area well known to archaeologists for its wealth of known monuments.
Apart from the recent use of the area by the horse racing industry and the military (with fascinating traces of the WWI camp and its practice trenches visible on Google Earth), the flat open plain was never extensively farmed but was in the past the focus of much prehistoric activity. Judging by the abundance of burial monuments found across the entire area (with over 100 recorded barrows in distinct clusters), the Curragh obviously held a sacred position for local past societies.
This zone is of such archaeological importance that a current project is aimed at declaring the Curragh and the neighbouring Dun Ailinne hillfort (ancient capital of Leinster) a UNESCO site.

Fig.1: Distribution of recorded sites on the Curragh, Co. Kildare (from the National Monuments Service).

Thinking that so much was already known about the Curragh, I did not expect to find a lot of evidence for new sites when I decided to glance over the area using GE years ago. Unfortunately, the GE coverage is not of the best quality for this area and only the April 2009 layer was usable for the present research. Despite the average image definition and even though the plain has been the subject of many surveys in the past, the following features still appear unrecorded (i.e. not currently in the database as of Feb 2015):

Fig.2: Location of unrecorded sites and possible sites discussed in this post.

* Apologies to the non-specialists, this post is aimed at cataloguing rather small potentially unrecorded features and the following shots are not going to be visually impressive. For something larger and more concrete, feel free to skip the Curragh inventory and scroll down to the last site in this post: another nice find from Co. Kildare.
* I am aware that there are many features on the Curragh that relate to past military exercises or post-medieval sporadic occupation and verification on the ground would prove beneficial in some cases. In any case, I have tried to confine this list to what I would consider as genuine ancient features. 
* On all pictures: visible recorded sites are shown with red markers while unrecorded features are numbered 'KDx' and shown with yellow markers.

KD1 - Sub-oval feature; Lat: 53° 7'56.72"N, Long: 6°48'13.92"W.

Only 13m to N of disturbed ring-barrow KD028-011: sub-oval enclosure c.14x11m (long axis oriented SE-NW).


KD2 - Circular feature - Barrow; Lat: 53° 7'46.04"N, Long: 6°47'30.60"W.

Well-defined circular feature showing area enclosed by ditch and external bank, max. diam. c.10m.

KD3 - Circular feature - Barrow; Lat: 53° 7'51.24"N, Long: 6°47'24.16"W.

190m to NE of KD2: circular feature, max. diam. c.10m.


KD4 - Sub-oval feature; Lat: 53° 8'5.65"N, Long: 6°48'38.65"W.

Sub-oval enclosure c.16x13m (long axis oriented SE-NW).

Features found to the E and SE of ring-barrow KD028-074: 

KD5-KD6 - Two conjoined circular features - Barrows; Lat: 53° 8'3.15"N, Long: 6°48'45.44"W.
Two small circular features, c.4m in diameter. The southern site appears to overlap its neighbour to the north.

KD7 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53° 8'3.46"N, Long: 6°48'46.28"W.
Just 12m to NW of above pair: faint traces of circular feature c. 9m in diameter. 

KD8 - Mutilated circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53° 8'1.77"N, Long: 6°48'44.64"W.
To the N of area of extensive quarrying, sharp traces of about half of a circular feature, showing arc of ditch and external bank. The arc runs for about c.25m and if circular, the feature would have been c.16m in diameter.


KD9-KD12 - Four circular features - Barrows?; Lat: 53° 8'6.18"N, Long: 6°49'6.98"W (KD10)

A linear arrangement of four faint sub-circular features. KD9-KD11 are all about c.6m in diameter while KD12 appears a bit larger at c.8m in diameter.

There is a further possible site between KD11 and KD12, which would 'close the gap' in the alignment, although the imagery is not clear enough to confirm it.


KD13 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53° 8'54.02"N, Long: 6°48'26.03"W.

Within the confines of the golf course and in an unimproved area between fairways: circular feature c.6m in diameter.


KD14 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53° 9'10.12"N, Long: 6°49'5.12"W.

About 43m to SE of recorded barrow KD023-121: small circular feature c.5m in diameter.


In the vicinity of barrow KD023-122:

KD15 - Circular feature - Barrow; Lat: 53° 9'18.37"N, Long: 6°49'2.75"W.
Surrounded by heavily disturbed ground, sharp traces of circular ditch enclosed by bank, max. diam. c.18m in diameter.

KD16 - Sub-circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53° 9'21.40"N, Long: 6°49'9.33"W.
Faint traces of sub-circular feature, c.9m in diameter.

KD17 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53° 9'23.46"N, Long: 6°49'2.53"W.
Faint circular feature, c.9m in diameter.


To ESE of recorded mound KD023-096:

KD18 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53° 9'24.25"N, Long: 6°50'17.92"W.
c.7m in diameter.

KD19 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53° 9'26.31"N, Long: 6°50'18.24"W
c.6m in diameter.

KD20 - Sub-circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53° 9'26.14"N, Long: 6°50'26.16"W
Sub-circular feature c.11x9m.


KD21 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53° 9'20.00"N, Long: 6°50'43.04"W.

Circular feature with max. diameter c.11m.


In an area with several major sites but also with a lot of ground disturbance due to more recent military activity, two of the small features show a well-defined circular plan with outer bank:

KD22 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53° 9'7.16"N, Long: 6°51'26.14"W.
Adjacent to recorded ring-barrow KD023-043: circular feature c.8m in diameter.

KD23 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53° 9'14.36"N, Long: 6°51'31.44"W.
c.7m in diameter.


KD24 - Enclosure; Lat: 53°10'24.81"N, Long: 6°52'14.20"W.

180m to W of similar U-shaped recorded enclosure KD023-084: sub-rectangular U-shaped enclosure, possibly opened to W, c.5x4m. Could relate to military activity.


KD25 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53°10'28.39"N, Long: 6°52'44.87"W.

About 12m to E of the large ring-barrow KD022-042: circular feature c.12m in diameter.

There are potentially faint remnants of further barrows to the N, between barrows KD022-043 and KD022-81/82.


Immediately N of the above sites, in an area rich with other recorded barrows:

KD26 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53°10'32.23"N, Long: 6°52'50.36"W.
Faint traces c.9m in diameter.

KD27 - Circular feature - Barrow; Lat:  53°10'35.81"N, Long: 6°52'49.25"W.
c.9m in diameter.

KD28 & KD29 - Two circular features - Barrows; Lat: 53°10'34.56"N, Long: 6°53'0.90"W.
Pair of almost adjacent circular features, with diameters c.9m and c.10m.


These two likely barrows, c.8m from each other are found c.200m E of ring-barrow KD022-047:

KD30 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53°10'18.53"N, Long: 6°52'49.22"W.
c.10m in diameter.

KD31 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53°10'18.34"N, Long: 6°52'48.01"W.
c.10m in diameter.


KD32 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53°10'20.03"N, Long: 6°53'8.81"W.

About 100m to N of large ring-barrow KD022-046: faint circular feature c.8m in diameter.


KD33 - Circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53°10'30.05"N, Long: 6°53'51.84"W.

Small circular feature c.5m in diameter.

There is another faint potential feature, c.7m in diameter, a few metres to SE.


The next four unrecorded sites are not located within the confined of the Curragh itself, but are found under a km to the NE of its southeastern edge (central coord.: Lat: 53° 8'17.81"N, Long: 6°46'28.51"W; see Fig.2 at top of this post).

KD34 - Circular feature - Barrow; Td: Kineagh;
c.8m in diameter.

KD35 - Circular feature - Barrow; Td: Kineagh;
Well-defined circular feature c.10m in diameter, showing potential signs of disturbance to NW.

KD36 - Circular feature - Barrow; Td: Kineagh;
Well-defined circular feature c.11m in diameter. 

About 650m to NW of the above group of three barrows: 

KD37 - Sub-circular feature - Barrow?; Lat: 53° 8'33.30"N, Long: 6°46'52.94"W; Td: Blackrath and Athgarvan.

Well-defined sub-circular feature c.11m in diameter.

(other small circular features on this image are related to farming).


Lastly, as I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I thought I would also reveal another local and unrecorded site that should definitely be visually more impressive than the faint barrows of the Curragh!

The site is located 5km to NW of the Curragh and is best seen on the April 2009 GE layer:

KD38 - Large enclosure; Lat: 53°13'1.90"N, Long: 6°55'13.39"W; Td: Conlanstown; Status: unrecorded.

The site is located c.500m to ENE of another recorded enclosure in the same townland: KD017-058.

It is defined by a large internal enclosure c.59m in diameter, set slightly off-centre of a much larger external enclosure whose plan is obstructed at NW. It appears to have been slightly egg-shaped and with maximum dimensions c.140m SE-NW and c.115m NE-SW.
Furthermore, it is possible to discern a few additional traces in the interior of both the internal and external enclosures. 


Right, time to bring this post to a close...

I hope that this foray into Kildare will have highlighted the benefits that can be gained from using Google Earth imagery, even in areas where much surveying has already been carried out. Knowing that some archaeological features will appear better under certain conditions and through different methods, it is worth keeping in mind that Google Earth has tremendous potential and should not be ignored (especially if the quality of the imagery were to improve with time). This point will hopefully be made clear in the next few posts since I will now attempt to publish all my new data for Northern Ireland, systematically, and by County*.

* I have received a few messages from people wondering if I would consider accepting for inclusion in this blog potential new sites in Ireland that they themselves have identified using Google Earth. I would of course be more than grateful to receive anything that would add to the present corpus of data - for both the RoI and NI. It is hoped that in the long run, this blog will act as a repository for new findings made in Ireland/NI via GE in order to better reach the archaeological communities and relevant authorities. 

*** If you like this post and the contents of this blog, please show your support and make a donation to the NIDAS project using the secure button at the right. Many thanks! ***

1 comment:

  1. Received a couple of indirect comments about this lot so I thought I would mention it here:

    There has been further surveying on the Curragh recently and there are a number of known sites no yet recorded within the NMS. As I mention in the post above, I was aware of the likelihood that the NMS files weren't especially up-to-date but unfortunately, I can only work with what is officially and readily available at the present time. The goal of this list was to reach the relevant people (those 'in the know' about current research in this area) to highlight these GE features of potential archaeological significance. Even if, say, 5 of the sites above turn out to have been unknown, I will still consider this exercise a positive one!

    Re. KD15 - This one had been noticed before but the feature appears to be the result of an explosion, being situated at the bottom of a crater-like depression. I had picked it up in case the surrounding disturbance was simply due to quarrying, which may have concealed the hypothetical barrow. It would be great to continue narrowing the above list by removing already known sites (but not recorded as yet) or sites that prove not to be archaeology and I will post updates in the comments or in the blog itself if I get anymore information.