Scientific dating leads archaeologists to "extremely exciting" early settlement near ruined 13th century castle
Archaeologists searching for a lost 17th century town say the remains of a fireplace, found in a field near a medieval Irish coastal castle, was part of a previously unknown settlement which could have been established 200 years earlier.
Radiocarbon dating from the clay floor of a structure, discovered by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, suggests an earlier community could have lived in Dunluce during the late 15th and 16th centuries.
“This area was targeted for excavation as it was expected that remains of the 17th century town survived there,” says Mark H Durkan, the Environment Minister for Northern Ireland.
“The archaeologists found the remains of a stone-built structure that had a doorway at the corner, which is quite different to the 17th century buildings revealed to date.
“A fireplace in the building has been scientifically dated to the late 15th century. This leads archaeologists to suspect an earlier phase of settlement.
“Up to now we knew there was a substantial 17th century settlement in the fields around Dunluce.
“What we are now beginning to uncover are traces of earlier and extensive late medieval settlement activity which are equally as important as the remains of the 17th century Dunluce Town.”
As the 13th century Lords of the Route, the McQuillan family built a stronghold at the now-ruined castle around 500 years ago. Pottery from the late medieval period was also found.
“Traces of buildings were unearthed close to the cliffs upon which the castle was built,” says Durkan.
“This is a tremendously exciting historical development.
“These buildings most likely formed a small settlement just outside the original castle gate.
“They pre-date the later expansion of the castle complex and development of 17th century Dunluce Town.
“Very few 15th century buildings, other than those built entirely from stone, have survived in Ulster and normally there would be few traces, if any, for archaeologists to investigate.
“We are extremely lucky to make this exciting discovery.”
Organisers are now planning a major project to reveal more buried remains from the town and the castle gardens.
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