Week 2 – salt works excavation, Ballycastle

Week 2 of the dig finished with finally defining the limits of our dry-stone building, and it’s fairly modest at c.4x4m internally. The walls are double-boulder with rubble infill and generally are undressed, the only notable element the quernstone mentioned last week. The walls appear to abut each other rather than interlocking at the corners and this would not have contributed to structural strength! We are also still working on definitely locating the door, which does not appear in the wall facing the bucket pot – this might make sense as the prevailing wind is from this direction.

 

The northern wall emerges in the foreground with the interior rubble revealed

The northern wall emerges in the foreground with the interior rubble revealed

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A rough setting of stones on top of the rubble indicating a late & brief occupation of the ruined building – the brass button was found here

 

Toward the end of the week we began to turn our attention to the interior of the structure, which is currently full of rubble. This is no doubt in part derieved from the collapsing walls, however as the structure had no mortar to preserve the general shape of the construction its not clear which of the walls collapsed inward. The rubble features flecks of coal throughout and in one area there was immediately discovered a rough setting of stones associated with richer burnt material. This appears to have been a late, impromtu fire setting in the remnants of the old salt building, perhaps by the coal miners. One of the very few finds made so far – a brass button – came from this area. It likely dates to the 18-19th century. As rubble is removed its hoped that some elements might betray the position of supports for the pans or at least a working hearth where salt may have been made.

 

It ain't all glamour! Torrential rain viewed from under our tarp!

It ain’t all glamour! Torrential rain viewed from under our tarp!

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