In July and August 2018 we will begin an exciting new excavation at Caraun Point, on the northern coast of Achill Island. Caraun Point is a small sand-covered peninsula jutting into the Atlantic Ocean. It is well-known for its rich archaeological remains, including an early medieval enclosure, a children’s burial ground, shell middens, and a number of stone buildings of unknown date eroding out of the sand dunes. The site has produced a large number of stray finds, including prehistoric stone tools, a coin of Edward I, a hand-mill fragment, clay pipes, Buckley-type ware, coarse earthenware, and a 17th-century date stone.
The principal element of the complex is an early medieval caher (or ringfort) that was later used as a burial ground for unbaptised infants. Cahers were the enclosed homesteads of landowners in medieval Ireland, and the Caraun point example is one of only a handful known on Achill. The site is surrounded by a number of middens consisting of dense deposits of shell, animals bone, and refuse from the settlement. Achill’s coast is dotted with middens, many of which have prehistoric origins. Just east of the caher are a number of undated houses eroding out of the sand. Stray finds retrieved from this area indicate occupation during the 17th century, although the origins of the houses could be much earlier.
In 2018 we will target one of these small stone buildings and an associated midden for excavation. The excavation will answer some important questions about the development of vernacular settlements and building traditions on Ireland’s Atlantic coast.