Local History by Seán Beattie

Archaeology, Cooley, Excavation

Excavation at Cooley, Moville – Sean Beattie

Cooley Dig 2016

Picture shows excavations at Cooley, Moville, in a field adjoining the graveyard (18 August 2016). This is part of the Lands of Eoghan Archaeological Festival which explores the Early Christian connections between Inishowen and beyond. The Festival opens on Friday 19 August with a lecture by Brian Lacey. For 5 lectures on Saturday in Carndonagh, see Lands of Eoghan Facebook page. Admission is free and open to everyone.

This is the fifth year since studies began on Inishowen monastic sites led by Colm O’Brien and Max Adams and a group of volunteers called the Bernician Studies Group (see their website). This year they are joined by a small team of young archaeologists and local archaeologists. At the end of the dig shown above, some archaeological material was beginning to appear. Studies are also being carried out in the graveyard without soil removal or interference with graves.

Inishowen has been selected because of the variety of monastic sites, none of which have been surveyed or excavated, apart from Carrowmore and Cloncha. The link is Colmcille who opened up shop in Iona. One of his disciples, Aidan, founded Lindisfarne, thus completing the triangle of sites. Carrowmore has revealed metal workings and evidence of smithing dating from 590 AD. Tests have revealed metallurgical debris, including bog ore and charcoal in studies undertaken by a chemical engineer. Tests were undertaken in the UK in an accredited laboratory on 7 samples from Carrowmore using a Bruker portable XRF.  We can only speculate on the extent of the industry at this site, the nature of the goods produced and the high levels of technical skill employed. To date, surveys have shown that monasteries were surrounded by a ditch as if they were sited in old circular forts. The dig above is taking place on the line of one of the fort walls or ditches which were located during the survey last year. (see earlier post on Carrowmore)

There will be an open day on Sunday 21 August when visitors can visit Cooley. The work is carried out under an Irish Government licence issued by the OPW and with the consent of the landowner and farmer. Further surveys are in operation in the peninsula with the approval of the land owner. This is the first archaeological dig at this ancient monastic site and is of great interest to the local community. Note dates-

Friday 19 August 2016 – Dr Brian Lacey, Colgan Hall, Carndonagh

Saturday 20 August 2016 – 5 major lectures 

Sunday 21 August 2016 – Open Day at Cooley


  1. Paddy Roddy

    Is the site at Cooley wheelchair accessible for the open day

  2. Amanda

    Hi there, just wondering where and what time are the lectures being held tomorrow in Carn? Also, what time is open day running from-to in Cooley? Thank you

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