A follow-up to the excavation at the Hellfire Club site in Dublin

As excavations at the 18th century Hellfire Club shooting lodge, Montpelier Hill in Dublin Mountains, Ireland, continue more information is revealed on the supposed Neolithic passage tomb on which it was built on using the original structures’ stones.

Cross-section of the cairn (by The Journal)
Cross-section of the cairn (by The Journal)

Originally in 1725 the building called Mount Pelier Lodge was built for politician William Speaker Connolly. After his death it passed Richard Parsons, the founder of the Irish chapter of the Hellfire Club and the Lodge supposedly became the place of debauchery. The urban legend grew upon the place, speaking of the visits from the devil, violence and mutilation of young women. The place however was built with stone material that once formed the impressive cairn of a neolithic tomb on the hill. Currently, a team of archaeologists led by Neil Jackman are now examining the site in order to identify the remains of the two Neolithic passage tombs that are said to have stood prior to construction of the Lodge on the Montpelier Hill.

Trenches across the cairn (by The Journal)
Trenches across the cairn (by The Journal)

The study involved a geophysical survey of the site which led to a small targeted archaeological dig last year and opened the door for the currently ongoing investigation. The team has opened two trenches in order to check whether it is possible to prove there is a Neolithic passage tomb at the site, and to find any artefacts that could provide a radiocarbon date.

Excavations at the Hellfire Club (by The Journal)
Excavations at the Hellfire Club (by The Journal)

Archaeologist apply also modern technologies to create 3D models, and obtain aerial footage through UAV (drones). All that in order to reveal structures normally invisible to the naked eye. Seen from above, the circular mound of the larger passage tomb, and a smaller one centred near where the current Ordnance Survey marker stone is sited, are clearly visible.

Aerial view of the site (by The Journal)
Aerial view of the site (by The Journal)

Within the trenches archaeologists were able to record charcoal at the base of the rubble which should give a date for the earliest construction at the site. The monument however faced two phases of destruction as initially it was destroyed for creation of the shooting lodge and later it was raided for material used in construction for the Military Road. One of the artefacts, a 200-year-old clay tobacco pipe, shaped as an eagle claw gripping the bowl of the pipe as if it were an egg, is dated to around the time of the construction of that road.

200-year-old clay pipe (by The Journal)
200-year-old clay pipe (by The Journal)

The archaeologists however were able to prove that the site is a passage tomb, but they need to continue their work in order to reveal the details of the structure. According to the researchers, the tomb was by far the largest in the Dublin area, while over 30 metres in diameter, large for an upland passage tomb. It dominated the landscape and set a territorial footprint of the local population over the surrounding area. A direct find associated with the original builders of the site is believed to be a polished stone axe-head, found within the tomb. It was never used and it seems to have been deliberately made to be deposited in this structure.

A polished hand axe (by The Journal)
A polished hand axe (by The Journal)

The archaeologists collected soil samples in order to reveal if there are ancient pollen particles trapped within that could shed light on what the environment was like when the structure was erected. The team hopes to uncover more mysteries of the site, continuing their so far productive work.

(after The Journal)

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