Tonyquin, Co. Cavan Excavation Project

Since 2008 Dr. Charles Mount has been Project Manager of the archaeological investigations at the Tonyquin, Co. Cavan quarry. The work has been carried out on behalf of the Quinn Group, under the terms of the ICF Archaeological Code of Practice, as a condition of the planning permission to develop a quarry at the site.To date work on the site has been carried of by Northern Irish Consultancy, Aegis Archaeology, The Archaeology Company and Archer Heritage Planning. Archaeological Monitoring of soil stripping at the quarry site commenced in April 2006. In January 2008 the monitoring archaeologists began to encounter substantial numbers of archaeological features in the townland of Gortlaunaght covering a period of over 4,000 years. The sites included Neolithic pits and ditches with Grooved Ware pottery, a Bronze Age Ring-ditch containing a vase urn and the remains of a burnt mound, a rectangular Iron Age house, a large early Medieval enclosure that measured 65m x 50m with a surviving upstanding bank incorporated into a field boundary. To the north of this an upstanding ringfort was identified. This was subsequently excavated in the winter of 2008 and found to contain Bronze Age features within a later upstanding Early Medieval ringfort. Archaeological monitoring carried out in early 2009 to the north of this area in Tonyquin townland uncovered additional archaeological features. Excavations carried out in 2010 identified this as the remains of a Middle Bronze Age settlement associated with Cordoned Urn, Middle Bronze Age domestic pottery and some Neolithic Grooved Ware.

Development and archaeological investigations are continuing. In 2013 the remaining area of the quarry was the subject of a geophysical survey carried out by Target Archaeological Geophysics and part of the area was test excavated by Archer Heritage Planning.

The Middle Bronze Age House at Tonyquinn, Co. Cavan.

Excavation publications

Chapple, R. M. 2010. One point throughout time: archaeological continuity at Gortlaunaght, Swanlnbar, Co. Cavan. Archaeology Ireland Vo. 24, No. 1, 35-9.


Also see this illustrated talk by Robert Chapple on his excavations:

Below is a summary of the investigations carried out at Tonyquin available from

220126014.1544 325119568.1058
Five areas of archaeological interest were excavated at this quarry site at Gortnalaught, Swanlinbar.
The remains of a trapezoidal foundation trench for a building measuring 15.9m north–south by 6m at its southern end, narrowing to 3.5m at the northern end, was found at Site A. A large post-hole was excavated towards the centre of the eastern slot, while smaller post-holes were found all along the trench length, especially near the corners. No dating evidence was recovered from these features.
At Site B a large oval enclosure measuring c. 27.9m north-west to south-east by c. 40.2m enclosed an area of c. 2403m2. This enclosure was defined, for the most part, by a narrow, shallow ditch with an entrance to the north-west. Where bedrock was encountered, no attempt had been made to continue the circuit of the enclosure, leaving an interrupted ditch. Cut antler and metal slag were recovered from the ditch. A number of pits located outside the entranceway produced sherds of Neolithic pottery, including an almost complete round-bottomed undecorated vessel.
Within the enclosure was evidence for a number of structures. In the centre was located a circular ditched feature measuring c. 8m in diameter, probably the remains of a Bronze Age ring-barrow. The construction technique employed here was very similar to that of the larger enclosure, suggesting contemporaneity. Coarse pottery and cremated bone were recovered from this feature. A number of linear gullies were excavated within the enclosure along with a U-shaped structure, a subrectangular structure, an L-shaped slot and a curving arc slot. Half a rotary quern was recovered, along with a heavily fractured flat-bottomed vessel.
The eastern part of the site was defined by an upstanding bank that measured 45.25m in length. This bank had survived by becoming incorporated into the local field system. The associated field drain had mostly obliterated the original external ditch, though traces of it could still be seen in parts.
Three isolated pits of unknown date were excavated at Ext. 1. Five pits produced sherds of cordoned urn pottery in Ext. 2 and Ext. 3 contained a substantial pit of unknown date.
Post-excavation analysis had yet to begin at the time of writing.
Robert M. Chapple, Northern Archaeological Consultancy Ltd, Belfast, BT12 7DY.

Enclosure, bowl furnaces, Bronze Age structure
220148 325179
08E0806; 08R253
The excavations at Site C, conducted in advance of the extension of a quarry, were located c. 2.5km south-east of Swanlinbar and 0.6km east of the N87 Ballyconnell to Swanlinbar Road. The site was situated on a break of slope on a west-facing hillside above the valley of the River Blackwater which flows into Upper Lough Erne c. 11km to the north-west.
The enclosure was initially identified as a kink within the Gortlaunaght–Tonyquin townland boundary and was tested by NAC in June 2008. Only one feature, a boundary ditch situated to the south of the enclosure, was located outside of the confines of the enclosure. The enclosure measured c. 30m in diameter and was defined by a ditch c. 1m wide and c. 0.75m deep. The ditch had been truncated along nearly its complete length by a post-medieval/early modern field boundary. The entrance was located at the west defined by two well-rounded termini. Although no datable evidence was located on-site, a medieval date is postulated for the enclosure. This is based primarily on its relationship with features located within the internal area.
A number of features, concentrated in two areas, were located within the internal area of the enclosure. The first, located in the north-west, was a metalworking area with several possible bowl furnaces, a post-hole and a curvilinear slot-trench. These features had truncated a large pit that may have been related to the other area of activity. This area was located centrally within the enclosure and extended to the south and south-east. Contained within this area were two large pits, three possible structural gullies, and a number of stake-holes that were concentrated around a small area of heat-affected natural subsoil. These stake-holes formed a subcircular structure, with the slot-trenches possibly forming a second. A large spread of material overlaid a number of these features. This spread extended to the south and south-west, where it had been sealed by the enclosure bank and truncated by the enclosure ditch.
A number of prehistoric pottery sherds were recovered from a number of features from the central area, including the spread. Several sherds have been preliminarily identified as Bronze Age cordoned urns (1730–1500 bc in date) (Dr Charles Mount, pers. comm.). A possible cremation was located c. 10m west of the stake-hole cluster.
Lee Scotland, Ægis Archaeology, 32 Nicholas St, King’s Island, Limerick.