Queen’s students discover prehistoric artefacts on grounds of Stranmillis College during training dig

Archaeology students at Queen’s University Belfast have discovered prehistoric artefacts which date back to the Middle Neolithic era on the grounds of Stranmillis during a training excavation.

By Helen McGurk
Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 5:04 pm
Updated Wednesday, 28th July 2021, 5:06 pm
Neolithic pottery found in the grounds of Stranmillis College Belfast
Neolithic pottery found in the grounds of Stranmillis College Belfast

The students, who have been on site since June 21, found prehistoric pottery and flint as well as items associated with the use of Stranmillis House as a residence in the 18th and 19th century.

The exciting discovery provides new provides new information about the earliest inhabitants of the Belfast region. Previous discoveries have given information about prehistoric activity in the landscape – of what is now South Belfast – but this latest discovery by has revealed possible settlement activity.

Ruth Logue from Queen’s University Belfast is Site Director of the excavation. She said: “The Archaeology Department of the School of Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University Belfast is currently undertaking their annual archaeological excavation module at Stranmillis College, Belfast.

“Three areas are under investigation in an attempt to tease out the site’s story and advise on the presence and survival of archaeological deposits in this area of the city. The dig started with the Level 2 students opening trenches at the rear of Stranmillis House (Area 1), adjacent to the farmyard (Area 2) and in the wooded area in the south of the estate (Area 3). Currently the Level 1 students are carrying on the work with another week or so left.

“The areas are all revealing archaeological material ranging from prehistoric pottery and flint to items associated with the use of Stranmillis House as a residence in the 18th and 19th century.

“The presence of Neolithic pottery and flint is previously unknown evidence of prehistoric settlement in this area of Belfast and adds to our picture that Stranmillis was an important location for settlement from at least 6,000 years ago.

“The students have been battling through all extremes of weather - always with an air of excitement of what they might find. The excavation lasts for another week or so and who knows what waits to be revealed.”

Archaeologist Brian Sloan from Queen’s University Belfast added: “This excavation is incredibly valuable to us as it is a chance to investigate an area of Belfast that has seen little development over the last 250 years.

“It’s also a chance to investigate the history of this area and build up a picture of the history and archaeology of Stranmillis.

“The artefacts are vitally important as they are the story. These are items that people have made, used and ultimately lost or thrown away. Particularly with the prehistoric artefacts - somebody 5000 or 6000 years ago sat here and made these items. They really add the human touch to archaeology.”

Queen’s University archaeology student, Ryan Montgomery, added: “The Stranmillis College excavation was a fantastic experience for all involved. We were given the opportunity to excavate through three very different scenarios as a group from modern rubble and waste, manicured lawns and forest floors in one compact area. Under the instruction of the Centre for Community Archaeology archaeologists we learned essential skills such as recognising changing layers and identifying features within as well as how to record these. The excavation was educational and fun and left us feeling confident to move forward into our careers as archaeologists.”