a site of history

Landscape (UK) - - In The Home -

Near Castle­town lies Bal­ladoole, one of the is­land’s most im­por­tant an­cient sites. A weath­ered sign­post ges­tures be­tween gorse and elder trees to­wards a site rich in history. Within a few hun­dred yards of one an­other lie Bronze Age cist buri­als, Iron Age earth­works, early Chris­tian lin­tel graves, a keeil, or chapel, and a Vik­ing ship burial. The old­est ar­chae­o­log­i­cal finds date from the Mesolithic pe­riod, ap­prox­i­mately 11,000 years ago. This marks the ear­li­est pe­riod of habi­ta­tion on Mann. Later Ne­olithic flints and pot­tery have also been found. Bal­ladoole came to promi­nence in the Iron Age. A natural look­out, ram­parts were built around the hill and an Iron Age hill fort cre­ated. Most travel dur­ing this early pe­riod was around the coast. With 10ft (3m) high walls topped with a wooden pal­isade, the fort was a ma­jor de­fen­sive struc­ture vis­i­ble from both land and sea. In 1945, an ar­chae­ol­o­gist ex­ca­vat­ing the fort dis­cov­ered a Vik­ing ship burial. A 30ft (9m) long ship was un­earthed, with the bodies of a wealthy Vik­ing man and a woman, pos­si­bly a sac­ri­fice. Thought to date to circa 900AD, the burial threw up some fas­ci­nat­ing dis­cov­er­ies. These in­clude a caul­dron and silver and gilt horse fit­tings. The man was buried clothed, with pro­vi­sions, bot­tles and per­sonal adorn­ments. He had no sword, which has led ar­chae­ol­o­gists to be­lieve he was a trader rather than a raider or war­rior. The place­ment of the ship burial is in­trigu­ing. It in­ter­sects part of the site used as a Chris­tian burial ground be­tween 700 and 800AD, as­so­ci­ated with a small chapel nearby, built be­tween 500 and 100AD. Ap­prox­i­mately 30 in­di­vid­ual re­mains have been found on the hill in Chris­tian buri­als. All on an east-west align­ment, with no grave goods, these were very sim­ple graves. The ship was on top of part of the Chris­tian burial ground. Al­though Bal­ladoole may have been used as a look­out point in the me­dieval pe­riod, the ship burial marks the last ma­jor use of the site.

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