Young Archaeologists Fieldwalks at Ballynoe and Killavees
Introduction to Ballynoe Stone Circle
Ballynoe Stone circle near Downpatrick, probably owes its origin to Neolithic farmers who settled in the area in about 3000 BC. Originally, up to 70 heavy boulders, some 7 ft high, were placed in a ring almost shoulder to shoulder, creating one of the great stone circles of Western Europe. An inner oval of low slabs was later damaged by the construction of a long oval mound, with stone chambers inserted into it. One of these chambers contained the burnt bones of young adults who lived 4000 years ago.
Today the circle is in state care and is signposted from the road 2.5 miles south of Downpatrick.
Downpatrick Young Archaeologists Club
Mike King is Curator of Down County Museum. He has been involved in organising archaeological fieldwalking activities for 14 years, to help people discover the past in their own area. In 2002 he set up the Downpatrick Young Archaeologists Club, the first of its type in Northern Ireland and linked to a Club network based in York. It is open to 9 to 16 year olds to join and now has 39 members. The Club meets monthly and investigates all kinds of historic subjects and sites, from Egyptians to the Normans, and from Stone Circles to Cathedrals.
The fieldwalks near Ballynoe Stone Circle and at Killavees Farm just outside Downpatrick were organised with the help of landowner, Donal McEvoy, and local farmer, Graham Furey. The aim of the fieldwalks was to discover evidence of prehistoric people who lived in the area at the time Ballynoe Stone Circle was being used.
The fields were ploughed and allowed to weather for a few weeks, so that the fieldwalkers would be able to spot objects such as flints, pottery and glass which might be of interest to archaeologists. Fieldwalking does not damage archaeological sites and anybody with a 'good eye' can take part!
The Process of Gathering Artefacts
The fields were carefully marked out into 20 metre squares before the fieldwalking started. The fieldwalkers then went across the fields in a line, square by square, picking up anything man-made which caught their eye and putting it in the correct marked bag for each square.
Special finds included pieces of pottery, clay pipes and glass vessels from the last 300 years and some prehistoric flints, such as a Neolithic plano-convex knife, dating to the time of Ballynoe Stone Circle! All the finds were taken back to Down County Museum and were cleaned and sorted by the club members. The flints were later identified by a specialist at the Ulster Museum.
Organiser : Mike King
Landowner : Donal McEvoy ; Farmer : Graham Furey
Museum Staff : Tracey Gilmore, Gemma Farry
Volunteers : Brian Leathem, Jim Parrish
Members of Downpatrick Young Archaeologists Club
Down County Museum
Tel: 028 44 615218