This site at Balgatheran, in Co. Louth, Ireland, was found at the top of a ridge of natural greywacke (greywacke is the type of stone that was used for the kerb stones at passage tombs such as Newgrange and Knowth). Although not itself within the Boyne Valley, visitors and occupants of the site would have had access via the nearby River Mattock, a tributary of the Boyne. 

The site was first found during infrastructural development and was excavated by Cóilín Ó Drisceoil in 2000. The information presented below is derived from Cóilín’s article about the site published in the Journal of the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society.

Three sub-circular structures were found, ranging from c.4.5m–8m in diameter, with rectangular four-post settings that ranged from 2.35–3.4m in length and breadth. Two of the structures contained central hearths and there was evidence for a porch at each structure, with the entrances generally facing towards the south-east. Grooved Ware and lithics were recovered from all three of the structures and fragments of stone axe-heads (one of porcellanite and one of dolerite) were also found in two of the structures (Ó Drisceoil, 2009). A fourth rectangular structure was stratigraphically later than structure 2.

Image of excavation in process at Balgatheran, Co. Louth, Ireland
Balgatheran, Co. Louth, Ireland, during excavation. Image courtesy of Cóilín Ó Drisceoil.

The first structure comprised nine postpits, outlining a sub-circular structure with an internal rectangular four-post setting. A porch projected 2.6m to the east-southeast, with a shallow path worn at the approach to this entrance. The timber posts that made up this structure appear to have been removed, and the remaining voids (postpits) were filled with material from a midden that included quite large quantities of artefacts such as sherds of Grooved Ware pottery, flints (debitage and large end scrapers) and half a porcellanite polished stone axe. Some of the pottery sherds were deliberately placed, indicating careful, structured deposition.

The second structure was found just 3m to the south of structure 1. Only four posts survived from the external arc of pits/posts. These were probably part of a wall that originally surrounded an internal square four-post setting. A porch extended 2.3m to the east-southeast of the building. There was a large central hearth, with evidence for at least two episodes of burning. The ashy deposits associated with this feature contained burnt lithics and bone. Sherds of Grooved Ware were associated with the entrance and with the hearth. Structured deposits were found within a small pit that was located just inside the entrance; there were six cobbles lining the base of the pit, with a flat stone placed on top of these. The deposits above this contained lithics, including a flint blade, and fragments of burnt bone. Structure 2 was disturbed by a later rectangular building (Structure 4).

Structures 2 and 4 under excavation at Balgatheran. Image courtesy of Cóilín Ó Drisceoil

Only the four-post setting and the porch survived in the third structure; if there was an original external circle of posts these were lost, destroyed by the plough in recent centuries. There was a small hearth at the centre of the building and it there was some evidence to suggest that building may have burnt down. The artefacts from structure 3 included sherds of Grooved Ware, lithics, a fragments from a polished stone axe (porphyritic dolerite), sandstone hammerstones and fragments of burnt bone. There were also four heaths around this structure.

The fourth structure excavated at the site was a rectangular building (3.5m x 2.9m). It was stratigraphically later than structure 2 and, although it was associated with sherds of Grooved Ware, these may have been residual, re-deposited when it disturbed structure 2.

There are, as yet, no radiocarbon dates from these structures.

Further reading

Ó Drisceoil, C. (2009) ‘Archaeological Excavations of a Late Neolithic Grooved Ware Site at Balgatheran, County Louth’, Journal of the County Louth Archaeological and Historical Society, 27(1), pp. 77–102. (

A preliminary report has been added to the TII Digital Heritage Collection managed by the Digital Repository of Ireland (

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