Local History by Seán Beattie

Archaeology, Cooley, Excavation

Cooley Dig Open Day August 21 2016

Pictures show progress at Cooley dig after first week. The dig is outside the graveyard to the north and is based on the geo physical survey undertaken at Cooley last year. Two stone structures have been located, one of which may be a part of a large building or ditch and another with smaller stones which may have been part of paved area. At this early stage, up to 20 small but significant artefacts have been found and are recorded – charcoal, polished stones, glass, pottery and iron one. Carbon dating will establish dates of finds and add to our knowledge of the site. Clearly there was metal working on this site indicating its importance as a craft centre and industrial zone. Monks acquired their skills through contact with other monasteries across England, Scotland and even the continent. Apart from digs at Cooley and Carrowmore, no archaeological digs have taken place at our monastic sites in Inishowen.

The skull house picture shows the orderly placement of grave slabs with large well-cut stone covering the graves most of which have a header and footer. In the 1980s when I took photos here for my short guide to ancient monuments, there were human skulls and bones in the skull house but these have vanished. The semi-circular broken artefact was found when the graveyard was being cleaned. A total of 20 crosses have been identified on site some for the first time. They show a resemblance to crosses on Iona, which was in contact with the monastery here. I learned that the Paps of Jura are visible from Iona and from Inishowen also. For an interesting account of work to date see the new book by Max Adams  IN THE LAND OF GIANTS  which has a wonderful chapter on Inishowen sites. For a review of work on Carrowmore, see DONEGAL ANNUAL 2013. No 65.

The Lands of Eoghan Conference was a great success with over 120 in attendance for 6 lectures by a panel of distinguished speakers from Ireland, Scotland and England.

A geo physical survey started today 20 August 2016 at the Cross site at Churchtown with permission from Pat Doherty who owns the field on the corner opposite the Cross. Bottom  picture shows Teis Doherty, Maura Harkin and Sean Beattie at Cooley Open Day on 21 August 2016. (Sean Beattie)

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