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Archaeological Finds in Rathfarnham  

The Old Orchard Inn

One of the most significant archaeological excavations took place in Rathfarnham in 1997. A team of archaeologists discovered the remains of 200 bodies on the site of the Old Orchard Inn when they were developing the site.

The site was fully excavated between May and September 1997 and it was concluded from their findings that the site had been occupied in three main phases.

Phase 1: During this period, the Early Medieval, the site was probably enclosed by a trench. It is believed that metalworkers used the site since copper and iron slag were found in the trench during excavation. Animal bone was also found which suggests that they reared animals in the enclosure. A penannular brooch terminal, iron knives and a 'pig fibula' pin were also discovered.

Phase 2: In phase 1, the site was used for settlement but in phase 2, the main use was for burial. Archaeologists found the remains of at least 200 people. The graves were extremely shallow with some of them only 0.4 meters deep. Narrow and long stones were placed at the sides of the heads of the deceased in an 'ear muff' fashion.

It can be ascertained that the burials were Medevial in date since there were no post medieval artefacts found such as shroud pins. Because of the presence of the stone 'ear muff' features and due to the fact that the burials were shallow and surrounded by an enclosure, one can confidently come to the conclusion that the burials took place in the Medieval period.

It is believed that the burials took place within a short number of consequetive generations because the remains were fairly close and there were no signs of disturbance. There is no evidance of burials post dating phase 3.

Phase 3: According to archaeologists, during the third phase, the site was occupied again some time around the late 12th/13th century or perhaps later. The settlers constructed a second palisade trench (a fence of stakes). On the north side of the site, stone walls came to light, probably related to some building.

During this period, the settlers built homes over the burials. Archaeologists know this because over the burials, they found two patches containing stones, charcoal and medieval pottery aswell as several post holes (these would have supported the huts or houses). The excavation team also found 60 sample of Leinster Cooking ware aswell as an iron socketed spearhead, an iron spur and a probable harness mount.

The ancient site is now covered by a restuarant and a car park beside the Old Orchard pub.