Historians have known that a 17th-century town existed near the iconic Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland, but new research has uncovered new evidence of an earlier settlement, dating back to the 15th century.
Archaeologists digging just outside of the castle gate have found traces of buildings from the 16th and late 15th centuries. Previously, it had been believed a town was built next to Dunluce Castle from 1608 – it was destroyed during an Irish uprising in 1641.
Northern Ireland’s Environment Minister Mark Durkan said in a statement, “This area was targeted for excavation as it was expected that remains of the 17th century town survived there. The archaeologists found the remains of a stone-built structure that had a doorway at the corner, which is quite different to the 17th century buildings revealed to date. A fireplace in the building has been scientifically dated to the late 15th century. This leads archaeologists to suspect an earlier phase of settlement.”
The radiocarbon date, obtained from a fireplace on the clay floor of the structure, suggests a construction date in the late 15th century. Pottery that dates from the late medieval period was also recovered from the structure.
The Minister continued: “Up to now we knew there was a substantial 17th century settlement in the fields around Dunluce. What we are now beginning to uncover are traces of earlier and extensive late medieval settlement activity which are equally as important as the remains of the 17th century Dunluce Town. This provides an exciting new avenue of research to explore as part of our future investigations at Dunluce.”
The archaeological work was carried out by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Plans are currently in preparation for a major project to reveal the buried remains of the town and the castle gardens to the public with the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The archaeological team has done several videos last summer on their research at Dunluce Castle: