a site of history
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.