‘They met a violent and gruesome end.’
Archaeologists have released new details from their investigations into the discovery of six sets of skeletal remains at the site of the former Nancy Spain’s pub on Cork’s Barrack Street.
Four of the individuals were uncovered within a mass burial pit uncovered within the footprint of No. 48 Barrack Street. Buried in a ‘head to toe’ manner, small fragments of bone taken from two of the skeletons to facilitate radiocarbon dating have returned dates from the period between AD 1447 and 1636.
“The context of the burials and the way they were placed in the burial pit indicates that they were not treated in a respectful manner.” said osteo-archaeologist Niamh Daly.
“In fact, it was evident that all four individuals were buried in a manner which suggests that the hands/wrists were bound behind the backs, and it is likely that the feet/ankles were also bound”.
Post-excavation work is ongoing but laboratory analysis by Ms Daly has revealed that all six individuals were male. Skeletons 1, 3 and 4 were young adults aged approximately between 18 and 25.
The estimated sex, age, and the nature and position of burial points to a military connection for the revealed remains. The period of death indicated by the radiocarbon dating was a turbulent and violent time in Irish history, with Munster and Cork the focus of several significant events, including the first Desmond Rebellion (1569 – 1573), the second Desmond Rebellion (1579 – 1583), the Nine Years War (1593 – 1603) which culminated with the Battle of Kinsale, and a revolt in Cork City in 1603.
Another discovery that has fascinated local history buffs relates to a previously unknown exceptionally large defensive cut feature (ditch) which has been dated, through radiocarbon dating, to the period between the early 11th and mid-12th century, a time when the city was being developed by the Hiberno-Scandinavians – descendants of the Vikings who had intermixed with native Irish people.
“The uncovering of the ditch feature at the Barrack Street site is a highly significant archaeological discovery for the city of Cork,” said City Archaeologist Ciara Brett, who complimented the work of David Murphy, archaeologist with John Cronin and Associates, who excavated the site.
“This area formed part of the suburbs of the medieval city and is therefore of important historical and archaeological significance. The ditch, which is exceptionally large in size, was not known about prior to excavation. There is no record in the historical sources, neither documentary nor cartographic, of the existence of such a substantial feature in this part of the city.”
Mr Murphy believes the presence of this defensive ditch feature, some 300 metres upslope and to the southwest of the accepted area of settlement, “may suggest that the settlement was more extensive than previously thought.”