Bective excavations Blog

Day 20 – 2012: Bective Excavations End
July 29, 2012, 5:21 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized
With a mixture of emotions we arrived at Bective abbey for the final day of the 2012 season. The OPW moved in first thing in the morning to fill in the last of the Cuttings (thanks guys). All that remained to be done was some final processing of finds and environmental samples. The tools were gathered, cleaned and stored. Finds were placed in individual boxes of pottery, tiles, plough pebbles and clay pipes, ready to be handed over to the various specialists (watch this space). Once this was completed we began the next important task of picking teams for our traditional soccer match. It was a game of two halves, with one side receiving quite a hammering. We licked our wounds and headed down to Bective mill where our host Oliver Delaney, a true friend of the Bective abbey project, prepared a wonderful barbecue in a beautiful riverside setting. It was a wonderful evening. The team broke up and the directors are very grateful to them for their hard work (thank you so much guys!). The post-excavation phase of the project will begin immediately. We will keep you posted!

Cutting S North after excavation. The extension to the north-east was placed to find the width of the wall exposed in the main cutting and to find the eastern limit of the lay brothers’ range.

Cutting S South after excavation.

Pauline and Michael complete some last minute processing from the remains of the floated samples.

The men from the OPW who filled in our cuttings for us on the final day. Thanks guys.

Team Abbey line up for their pre-game photo.

Our host and chef for the end of excavation party was Oliver Delaney. Oliver has been a good friend to the excavation since our first season in 2009. He sports the commemorative T-shirt printed to honour the workers of the 2012 season. It features a design by Sadhbh McElveen based on the griffin tile from Bective Abbey.

Team Cottage line up for their team photo before the annual final day soccer match.

Neill, Peadar, Aine and Siobhán; four of our five original volunteers from the 2009 season.They participated in all four years on the excavation and have all graduated from their university courses in the time since the Bective Abbey Project began.

Dr Mark Clinton (right) was a surprise visitor on our last day. He discusses the finer points of medieval archaeology with Kieran Campbell and Catriona Devane.

A rainbow arcs its way over Oliver’s house. This has been a welcome home to the excavation since 2009.

As night falls the guitars come out. It is time to put down the camera and look for the tambourine. Good night Bective.


Day 19 – 2012 Excavations: Sun, Glorious Sun!
July 26, 2012, 7:36 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The vista of a sunny day at last, energized all the team. We gave Cutting P a final facelift before its close-up. After lunch we took our last look at the drains and flues before they were back-filled by the OPW. Attention then switched to Cutting S North, which also needed its final trowel over, photographs and some planning. Rory and Rosanne completed this in record time, while Peter discussed our findings with an interested wedding group. Matthew, Rob and Conall homed in on Cutting S South and have almost completed the detailed planning of the drain and walls. Kevin O’Brien visited and threw a huge amount of light on many of the architectural features we have exposed. Last day tomorrow (gag!…)

Cutting S North from the west after excavation.

Horses inspect Cutting P after excavation. They seem to approve of the results after four weeks of work.

Shane sits amongst the finds and samples drying out during a rare sunny day.

Bective Abbey is a popular spot for wedding photographs. In this photo Peter explains the excavation process to the wedding party.

Shane returned to the drain in Cutting S South to visit the origins of his great discovery. The drain fill was floated and examined. Shane detected a bronze chape end in the sample. Go Shane!

Finds are numbered in the sun.

Matthew surveying in Cutting S South.

Rory and Rosanne draw the section at the east face of Cutting S North.

Day 18 – 2012 Excavations: The Endgame
July 25, 2012, 8:08 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Surveying is in full swing now that Cuttings P is completely excavated. The finishing touches were made to Cutting S South. The drain and wall are looking really good. Sadhbh has identified a blocked entrance in the south wall and has exposed a drain under the wall as well. Cutting S North will be completed tomorrow morning. In this cutting a wall which was sitting on the drain fill was planned and removed. Rosanne is sharpening her surveying implements for a session of planning in the afternoon. A bronze object with some wood attached was found in the drain in Cutting S South (find of the day). All the soil samples have been floated and their processing continues. Registration and numbering of finds is almost completed and we are ready to present the specialists with their parcels for final analysis. Through the day a large number of students from St Patrick’s College visited the site. Go Pats!!

Planning in Cutting P. Sophie supervises.

Detail of the drain in Cutting S South.

Cutting S South from the east.

A large number of visitors joined the many volunteers from St Patrick’s College Drumcondra. They gather here to celebrate the History Society’s victory. The Pats Hist Soc won the ‘Most Improved Society’ award in 2011-12. Noel (past president) holds the award flanked by society officers Maeve and James.. Go Pats!!!

Noel Carey (past president of the History Society of St Patrick’s College) pretends to present their award to Lecturer Matthew Stout.

The OPW JCB arrived on the site to begin infilling the cuttings, OMG.

Day 17 – 2012 Excavations: The Secrets of the Drain
July 24, 2012, 7:32 pm
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The drain in Cutting S South has been emptied and fully exposed. It produced some fine artifacts; a bone and bronze comb, a complete relief tile and a tuning peg, along with a lot of medieval pottery and brilliant environmental samples. The remaining cuttings (Cutting S North and Cutting P) are nearing completion and survey is in full swing. The office team are at full tilt keeping up with the large quantity of finds uncovered during the last few days.

Mark Heffernan proudly displays the bone and bronze comb from the drain in Cutting S South.

Close up of the bone and bronze comb which came from the drain (Photo: Mark Heffernan).

Relief tile from the drain in Cutting S South (Photo: Mark Heffernan).

Pauline sporting our safety headgear.




Day 16 – 2012 Excavations: Down the Drain
July 23, 2012, 9:09 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

A warm breeze blew across the site for most of the day and great discoveries continue to be made. A beautiful and complete tile was found in Cutting S South. A carved bone (perhaps ivory) cylinder was also found there. It looks like a tuning peg from a medieval stringed instrument. The top of the drain has been revealed. Its contents will be extensively sampled. Cutting P is nearing the natural in all sections. Planning will begin there tomorrow. In Cutting S North a hearth or fire pit is being emptied. It contains a lot of medieval pottery. A metal key also came from this cutting. There were many distinguished guests during the day. They included Chief Archaeologist (emeritus) David Sweetman, Barry Drinan and Dr Marie Bourke of the National Gallery of Ireland. Marie and site directors Geraldine and Matthew first excavated together in 1976.

Mark, Pauline and Emma proudly display a complete relief tile found in the burnt layer just above the drain in Cutting S South. The relief tile shows a lion (or dragon or unicorn) rampant.

Sadhbh digs in the narrow space outside the building in Cutting S South. She is finding a large number of small animal skeletons

After the samples are floated, the remains of the sample is examined for material that did not rise in the flotation process. This produces very fine fish bones. A cherry stone was identified by the environmental lab today as well.

Distinguished visitors and guest volunteers; Barry Drinan, David Sweetman and Marie Burke.

Day 15 – 2012 Excavations: Archaeobotany at Bective Abbey
July 23, 2012, 8:49 pm
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Work continued in Cuttings S and P. The drains/flues were exposed in Cutting P, a cutting that looks more like spaghetti junction every day. After planning the stone collapse in Cutting S (north and south) we are into the burnt layers. A sherd of 16th century German stoneware was uncovered on the baked clay surface in Cutting S North (Rory discovered this find of the day). The relatively late find caused some consternation and might require us to rethink the dating of some of the activity around this burning incident. In the afternoon we had a real treat. Garden historian Lorraine Foley spoke to the team about the botanical legacy of the Cistercians to be seen in and around Bective Abbey. The talk was followed by a field trip around the walls of the Abbey where old plants sprout from the wall crevices. You can find out more about Lorraine’s work by going to her website ‘’

Workers on the site this week included Conall O’Callaghan, Lucas Griswald, Siobhán Rheinisch, Noel Carey, Catriona Devane, Sadhbh McElveen, Rosanne Meenan, Susan Lyons, James Doyle, Michael Connolly, Oisin McNamara, Peader McKeown, Robert Anderson, Emma Bates, Niall Ó Cearbhaill, Gemma Cooney, Rory Blount, Tom Ivory, Siobhan McCormack, Richard Dennis, Joshua Maloney, Catherine Bonner, Sarah Malone, Eimear Ivory, Shane O’Reilly, Alanna O’Reilly, Peter Dodd and Mark Kelly. Thanks for all your help.

Left without a leg to stand on. On Thursday night the bockety legs of our dining table were stolen from outside the cottage. Not to be outdone, Conall designed a table of banqueting hall proportions. They can take our legs but they cannot steal our pride.

Garden historian Lorraine Foley introduces the team to the botanical legacy of Bective Abbey.

Plants associated with Medieval monastic farming still flourish in the vicinity of Bective Abbey.

Day 14 – 2012 Excavations: A Day Without Rain
July 19, 2012, 7:31 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

It was a day for planning in Cuttings R and Q. Meanwhile in Cutting P a large team exposed a series of drain-like features. Peter found a very nice portion of a floor tile (find of the day). The curving passage in Cutting S South was finally bottomed . A sherd of undecorated medieval pottery and a piece of glass was found right at the bottom. The charcoal spread exposed in Cutting S South continues under the wall, confirming that it was built after the fire event. Stone collapse is in the process of being removed from Cutting S North and there is a backed clay layer indicating the intensity of the fire that destroyed the building. The environmental team have been working flat out to keep up with the extensive sampling. We had a visit from the School of Irish Archaeology under the directorship of Mark Kelly. The 22 children had a lot of difficult questions to ask us. I hope we got some of the answers right! You can find out more about the SIA by looking at

The curved wall as revealed by Sadhbh. This wall was added to a wall which is itself later than the collapsed wall/burnt areas.

Peter (left), Tom and Gemma (standing) expose parallel drains/flues.

Conall completing the plan of Cutting Q.

Gianmarco (right) with children from the School of Irish Archaeology (SIA). THe SIA is the brainchild of archaeologist Mark Kelly. Mark worked on the Bective Abbey Project in 2009.