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Radiocarbon Dating of a Multi-phase Passage Tomb on Baltinglass Hill, Co. Wicklow, Ireland

  • Rick J. Schulting (a1), Meriel Mcclatchie (a2), Alison Sheridan (a3), Rowan Mclaughlin (a4), Phil Barratt (a5) and Nicki J. Whitehouse (a6)...
Abstract

Baltinglass is a multi-chamber Neolithic passage tomb in Co. Wicklow, Ireland, excavated in the 1930s. This paper presents the results of a radiocarbon dating programme on charred wheat grains and hazelnut shell found underlying the cairn, and on cremated human bone found within and near two of the monument’s five chambers. The results are surprising, in that three of the six determinations on calcined bone pre-date by one or two centuries the charred cereals and hazelnut shells sealed under the cairn, dating to c. 3600–3400 cal bc. Of the remaining three bone results, one is coeval with the charred plant remains, while the final two can be placed in the period 3300/3200–2900 cal bc, that is more traditionally associated with developed passage tombs. A suggested sequence of construction is presented beginning with a simple tomb lacking a cairn, followed by a burning event – perhaps a ritual preparation of the ground – involving the deposition of cereal grains and other materials, very rapidly and intentionally sealed under a layer of clay, in turn followed by at least two phases involving the construction of more substantial chambers and associated cairns. What was already a complex funerary monument has proven to be even more complex, with a history spanning at least six centuries.

RÉSUMÉ

Datation au C14 d’une tombe à couloir à phases multiples sur la colline de Baltinglass Hill, Comté de Wicklow, de Rick J. Schulting, Meriel McClatchie, Alison Sheridan, Rowan McLaughlin, Phil Barratt et Nicki Whitehouse

Baltinglass est une tombe à couloir néolithique à plusieurs chambres dans le comté de Wicklow, fouillée dans les années 1930. Cet article présente les résultats d’un programme de datation au C14 sur des grains de blé et des coquilles de noisette carbonisés découverts sous le cairn et sur des os humains incinérés trouvés à l’intérieur et à proximité de deux des cinq chambres du monument. Les résultats sont surprenants en ce que trois des six déterminations sur les os calcinés pré-datent d’un ou deux siècles les céréales et les coquilles de noisette carbonisées scellées sous le cairn, datant d’environ 3600–3400 cal av. J.-C. Des trois résultats sur les os qui restent, l’un est contemporain des restes végétaux calcinés, tandis qu’on peut placer les deux derniers dans la période 3300/3200–2900 cal av. J.C., ce qui est plus traditionnellement associé aux tombes à couloir développées. Nous présentons une proposition de séquence de construction qui commence avec une simple tombe dépourvue de cairn, suivie d’un épisode de brûlage, peut-être une préparation rituelle du sol, comprenant le dépôt de graines de céréales et autres matériaux, très rapidement et délibérément scellés sous une couche d’argile, suivie à son tour d’au moins deux phases comprenant la construction de chambres plus substantielles et de cairns associés. Ce qui constituait déjà un monument funéraire complexe s’est révélé être encore plus complexe, avec une histoire couvrant au moins six siècles.

ZUSSAMENFASSUNG

Die Radiokarbondatierung eines mehrperiodigen Megalithgrabs von Baltinglass Hill, Co. Wicklow, von Rick J. Schulting, Meriel McClatchie, Alison Sheridan, Rowan McLaughlin, Phil Barratt und Nicki Whitehouse

Baltinglass ist ein neolithisches Megalithgrab mit mehreren Kammern im Co. Wicklow, das in den 1930ern ausgegraben wurde. Dieser Beitrag stellt die Resultate eines C14-Datierungsprogramms von verkohlten Weizenkörnern und Haselnussschalen vor, die unter dem zugehörigen Hügel gefunden worden waren, und von Leichenbrand, der innerhalb und nahe von zwei der fünf Kammern des Megalithgrabes gefunden wurde. Die Ergebnisse sind überraschend, da drei der sechs Bestimmungen an kalzinierten Knochen um ein oder zwei Jahrhunderte vor den Daten des verkohlten Getreides und der Haselnussschalen liegen, die unter dem Hügel versiegelt lagen und zwischen ca. 3600 und 3400 cal BC datieren. Von den verbleibenden drei Ergebnissen an Knochen ist eines zeitgleich mit den Daten der Pflanzenreste, während die beiden anderen in den Zeitraum 3300/3200 bis 2900 cal BC fallen, also in die Zeitspanne, die traditionell eher mit den entwickelten Kammergräbern in Verbindung gebracht wird. Eine mögliche Abfolge der Errichtung wird vorgeschlagen, die mit einem einfachen Grab ohne Hügel beginnt, gefolgt von einem Brandereignis – vielleicht einer rituellen Präparation des Bodens – das die Deponierung von Getreidesamen und anderen Materialien einschloss und das sehr schnell und intentionell unter einer Lehmschicht versiegelt wurde, wiederum gefolgt von mindestens zwei Phasen des Baus größerer Kammern und zugehöriger Hügel. Ein Grabmonument, das bereits als komplex gelten konnte, erweist sich als noch weit komplexer, mit einer Geschichte, die mindestens sechs Jahrhunderte umspannt.

RESUMEN

Datación radiocarbónia de una tumba de corredor multifase en Baltinglass Hill, Co. Wicklow, por Rick J. Schulting, Meriel McClatchie, Alison Sheridan, Rowan McLaughlin, Phil Barratt y Nicki Whitehouse

Baltinglass es una tumba de corredor neolítica con varias cámaras en el condado de Wicklow, excavada en la década de 1930. En este artículo se presentan los resultados obtenidos en el programa de dataciones radiocarbónicas realizadas a partir de semillas de trigo carbonizadas y cáscaras de avellanas documentadas bajo el túmulo de piedras, y de los restos humanos cremados hallados en el interior y en las cercanías de dos de las cinco cámaras. Los resultados obtenidos son sorprendentes ya que tres de las seis dataciones realizadas sobre hueso calcinado datadas en ca. 3600–3400 cal BC, preceden en dos siglos a los cereales y las cáscaras de avellanas carbonizadas documentadas bajo el túmulo. De los otros tres resultados obtenidos a partir de hueso, uno es contemporáneo a los restos vegetales carbonizados, mientras que los otros dos se sitúan en el período 3300/3200–2900 cal BC que tradicionalmente se asocia a las tumbas de corredor desarrolladas. Se presenta una posible secuencia de construcción que comenzaría con un enterramiento simple sin túmulo, seguido de un evento de cremación -quizá un ritual preparatorio del terreno- que supondría la deposición de granos de cereal y otros materiales, rápida e intencionalmente sellados por un nivel de arcilla, y a su vez seguirían al menos dos fases que supondrían la construcción de las cámaras más significativas y los túmulos asociados. Lo que era ya un monumento funerario complejo ha demostrado ser más complejo aún, con una historia que abarca al menos seis siglos.

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