Uncovering Medieval Downpatrick at Down County Museum
On Wednesday 4 March, some of the recently unearthed secrets of medieval Downpatrick will be revealed at Down County Museum in a talk by Brian Sloan from the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork, Queen’s University Belfast.
During the summer of 2019 archaeologists from the centre working alongside members of the community, in a dig at a site adjacent to Down Cathedral, discovered hundreds of medieval artefacts, many of which add greatly to our knowledge of how the medieval Benedictine Abbey at the site functioned.
The dig was part of a series of projects funded by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council’s PEACE IV programme. The digs were designed, not just to find out more about life in the past, but to help people understand local history and culture and gain skills in working in archaeology. Members of the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork spent five weeks investigating the site working alongside volunteers. A series of open days were also held to allow members of the public and tourists to witness first-hand how the work was progressing. Over 40 participants took part in the dig, most them young people. The dig also had over 3,000 visitors who dropped by to find out what was being unearthed and discovered at the site.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Charlie Casey said “I would encourage anyone interested in local history and archaeology to attend this talk at Down County Museum. The archaeological excavation revealed some very exciting and unusual objects and shows how important this site was in the medieval period. The attendance at the dig during the summer shows how widespread interest is in archaeology and this talk will provide people with a great opportunity to find out more.”
In 2018 an earlier community dig had exposed a medieval kitchen building and associated rubbish pits at the site, and the 2019 dig produced hundreds of medieval artefacts, including some surprises, reinforcing the importance of Downpatrick during the Medieval period and before. Some of the new artefacts included medieval pottery, animal bones, bronze pins, an Early Christian cross slab and a bronze section of a medieval cross with settings for precious stones. At the bottom of one pit were some wooden barrel staves – and Brian Sloan will reveal how they have been dated at the lecture. Brian Sloan’s talk will reveal his findings and explain the nature and importance of the finds from the site. The talk will take place on Wednesday 4 March at 7.30pm and admission is free.
The archaeological project was supported by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme; managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).