The first ever community led dig at Arney Fort has been hailed as a great success by the organisers.

The archaeological dig, led by Cuilcagh2Cleenish (C2C) revealed a host of medieval finds and was the first of its type to be excavated in Ireland.

The two week dig which was assisted by archaeologists from Northern Archaeological Consultancy Limited, who gave guidance and advice to those taking part in the dig, saw around 50 volunteers which included local school children and people from the area, and Barney Devine from C2C was delighted to have the local participation.

“We were delighted that the local schools participated as well as many many local people. The dig itself revealed really good finds and it looks like there will be more to come and the site itself has been elevated to being something of potentially national importance,” Barney explained.

“In terms of C2C, it just shows once again that the archaeological and built heritage of the area has much more to reveal which is wonderful in terms of how local people can identify heritage and how it can be focussed on for community participation and community development.”

By having the dig community-led, Barney felt it helped attract more local people to excavation.

“By having the whole dig led by the community and having the community identify what it would like to have excavated in the first place means that there is a real genuine interest from the get go and the community participate more in it.

“So the Northern Archaeological Consultancy were fantastic but they were more than happy for the overall leadership to come from the community and for them to feedback to the community which is a wonderful model of participation in community archaeology.”

Along with the community leading the way, the discoveries at the site were just as impressive and gave a real insight into the history of the area.

“The beauty about this project was we didn’t know what we were going to find. We didn’t know whether it was going to be Bronze Age, Iron Age or medieval. What we have found is that it was medieval, the 1400s. Ao it predates the Battle of the Ford of the Biscuits which is close by by 200 years.

“But it does highlight it was an impressive settlement and structure on the Arney River so the Arney was obviously an east-west highway, a trading route and they were wealthy people who lived on it. The next phase is finding out more about them, who they were and how they fitted into society in the 14-1500s.”

Medieval pottery, iron slag which points to the working of metal were some of the discoveries at the site and according to Project Manager Johnny Barkley says the site is a “high status site” and a first of its kind.

“It’s an elite site. The area would have been originally owned by the Maguires but its not one of their castles. Somebody very important would have lived here.

“There’s a lot more here and the site is very important. There is some discussion to how to actually describe the site I think at the minute what we are going to go with is like a Gaelic moated site and it’s the first one of its type ever excavated in Ireland.”

For both Barney and Johnny it is just the beginning and there is sure to be plenty of more work carried out at the site in the future.

“We’ve only really scratched the surface of the site. It was a two week dig and we could only dig five or six trenches.

“Next time we’ll know more, we’ll target particular areas and we’ll identify what we want to know next time because we have a basis upon which to build,” said Barney.

Johnny will return to Arney in November to give a presentation on the findings and should have more information on what was collected at the fort.

“We are really looking forward to that. By that time they will have analysed the findings, they’ll have sent it off for analysis and carbon dating and we’ll really know a lot more by the time the come down in November,” added Barney.