Doon Fort – Adopt A Monument

Project: Doon Fort – Adopt A Monument

Location: Donegal

Year: 2017

Client: Ardara GAP Heritage and History Group

Funding: The Heritage Council – Adopt A Monument Scheme

In October of this year, Earthsound had the chance to carry out one of the most spectacular surveys the company had ever tendered for! From the 2nd to the 6th, our full complement of field crew (Heather, Cian, Ursula and Ciarán) were out in the wilds of southwest Donegal. The subject of the survey was a cashel, on an island, in a lake!

Doon Fort is a stunning stone stronghold, covering most of a small island found in Doon Lough. The massive dry-stone fortifications rise to a maximum height of c. 5m at the entrance and range in thickness from 3m to 4m. The cashel contains not only a crawl space, but also a passageway with stairs within the wall itself, which lead up to the wall walk.

Approached from the east, launching from the lakeshore slipway, the fort makes an impressive appearance as you row up the lake and round a headland. Loading up a small row boat and a canoe, the Earthsound crew made the journey up and down the lake with all the equipment needed to carry out the survey each day.

A comprehensive survey was undertaken of the cashel. The interior was investigated with high resolution surveys using a single gradiometer, a hand-held electromagnetic instrument and a twin-probe earth resistance meter. In addition to these, a topographic survey was also conducted. An additional aim of the survey was to produce a 3-D model of the monument. Photographs documenting the structure were taken from all positions: inside the fort, on top of the wall and outside the fort from a canoe and adjacent islands.

Despite the small scale of the survey, a week was set aside to complete it. This was due to the changeable and harsh weather conditions sometimes encountered in this part of the country. As it happened, both the Monday afternoon and all of Wednesday were written off due to high winds and stormy conditions. On the other hand, the Tuesday, Thursday and Friday were very successful days, with all work being carried out in good conditions and an amazing setting!

Doon Fort is looked after by the Ardara GAP Heritage & History Group who are working very closely with the landowners, the McHugh family, and, in the weeks leading up to the survey, their members and many local volunteers worked to clear the interior of heavy vegetation and the dense ivy from the walls. Without their hard work and dedication, the survey would not have been possible. The survey was commissioned by the heritage group as part of the ‘Adopt a Monument’ Scheme being administered by the Heritage Council ( and Abarta Heritage (

The canoe was loaned by Grainne Breslin and Owen McAuley, while the canoe equipment was on loan by Jarlath McHale, of Mayo Adventure Experience (

Unfortunately, there is restricted access to the monument. It is vital that anyone trying to visit the site, that they contact the landowner prior to any visit. Please see Ardara GAP Heritage and History Group on Facebook ( for more info.

Kilfinnane Motte – Adopt A Monument

Project: Kilfinnane Motte – Adopt A Monument

Location: Kilfinnane, Co. Limerick

Year: 2017

Client: Kilfinnane Community Council

Funding: The Heritage Council – Adopt A Monument

At the start of November Earthsound headed down to the village of Kilfinnane in Limerick. This quiet village hosts one of the most impressive monuments to be seen in the Irish landscape – a lofty motte, rising to 12m in height, surrounded by a series of imposing banks and ditches.

Standing atop the motte, sweeping views are given of the surrounding landscape – taking in Keale Mountain to the south, the Ballyhoura Hills to the southwest, the Galtee Mountains to the east, and a rolling countryside to the north.

View looking south from on top of the monument – Galtee Mountains on the left, Keale Mountain on the right and Ursula with the EM cart (Photo: C. Hogan)

This monument has been adopted by a community council and Tommy O’Sullivan acted as liaison for us. He, along with other enthusiastic locals, were able to fill us in with a great amount of detail of ‘The Moats’ recent background and older history.

Little is known about the history of the monument and there are very few other monuments recorded in its immediate vicinity. A standing stone is located in an adjacent field. The Kilfinnane Community Council has made great efforts to assemble of huge range of historical documents, local knowledge and folklore to create a greater understanding of the landscape – and the geophysical survey is another step towards this.

A broad survey was undertaken of the lands surrounding the motte. The site was investigated using an eight-probe magnetometry system and an electromagnetic instrument. The aim of the survey was to identify any associated anomalies, perhaps a bailey, or other unknown anomalies. The magnetometry covered the entirety of the survey area, whereas the EM was used to target the area adjacent to the banks and topographic features elsewhere.










Ursula surveying with the EM cart in front of the motte (Photo: C. Hogan)

Acknowledgements to the landowner Tom for allowing us access to his lands for the survey.

The survey was commissioned by Abarta Heritage, on behalf of the Kilfinnane Community Council, as part of the ‘Adopt A Monument’ Scheme being administered by the Heritage Council and Abarta Heritage.

Community Archaeology in Athy, Co. Kildare

Project: Athy Heritage Centre-Museum, Athy, Co. Kildare.

Year: 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016

Client: Athy Heritage Centre-Museum, funded by the Irish Walled Towns NetworkThe Heritage Council.

Aim: We’ve been carrying out a variety of projects in Athy since 2013. We’ve surveyed the Town Walls and Black Castle Tower using Ground Penetrating Radar and Electrical Resistivity Imaging and used Magnetometry and Electromagnetic Induction surveys at Woodstock Castle.

Community Engagement: We’ve given a number of lectures on our work in Athy at the Athy Heritage Centre Museum, we’ve been visited by local schools and filmed for a short video that documented the surveys for the benefit of the local national school.

Outcomes: The 2013-2016 geophysical surveys have been used to aid the management of the Athy Town Walls and castles in a rapidly developing urban area. For more information on our work at Athy, see our collection of Blogs from Athy.

The Hellfire Club, Dublin

Magnetometry and a great view of Dublin City from Mountpelier Hill. Image: Abarta Heritage

Magnetometry and a great view of Dublin City from Mountpelier Hill. Image: Abarta Heritage

Project: The Hellfire Archaeology Project

Location: The Hellfire Club, Mountpelier Hill, Co. Dublin

Year: 2014

Client: The Hellfire Club Archaeology Project, on behalf of Abarta Heritage and South Dublin County Council

Aim: The purpose of the survey was to assess two Neolithic Passage Tombs  on top of Mountpelier Hill and the land surrounding the 18th Century Hellfire Club. The site was investigated with high resolution Magnetometer, Electromagnetic Induction and Earth Resistance Surveys, as well as LiDAR.

Community Engagement: 3 volunteers worked with Earthsound geophysicists over 3 days (volunteer labour contribution: €986)

Outcomes: The 2014 geophysical survey results were used to target a series of excavations in 2015 by the Hellfire Club Archaeology Project.

The geophysical survey was carried out as part of The Hellfire Archaeological Project in conjunction with Abarta Heritage. The site is located on top of Montpellier Hill in the Dublin Mountains which affords it a panoramic view of Dublin City and Bay. The summit of Monpellier Hill contains the remains of a hunting lodge built by the politician William Connolly in 1725. Adjacent to this is the probable remains of a prehistoric monument and it is thought that the lodge itself may have been constructed of stone robbed from these monuments.

According to folklore the roof had been blown down by a phantom from one of the tombs and Connolly had the roof reconstructed in stone.  Subsequent to Connolly’s death, the lodge lay in disuse for up to 10 years when it was leased by his widow Katherine to the Earl of Rosse, Richard Parsons. Parsons was a well known socialite and one of the ‘Young Bucks of Dublin’, a group of aristocrats who allegedly engaged in debauchery and possible Devil-worship, essentially what was to become the Hellfire Club. There are no direct accounts of Hellfire Club meetings occurring at Connolly’s Lodge on Montpellier Hill, however it is highly likely owing to its isolated location and association with Parsons.

Annacarty Remembered: RIC Barracks Survey

Magnetometry survey at the RIC Barracks

Magnetometry survey at the RIC Barracks

Project: Annacarty Remembered: RIC Barracks, Co. Tipperary.

Year: 2016

Client: Wolfhound Archaeology, funded by Tipperary County Council, Ireland 1916-2016 and The Heritage Council.

Aim: In June 2016, we carried out extensive Magnetometer, Electromagnetic Induction, Ground Penetrating RadarEarth Resistance Surveys and Metal Detection surveys at the RIC Barracks in Annacarty as part of a large commemoration event which was also filmed by RTE’s new television series John Creedon’s Epic East. The film crew were very interested in the geophysical survey and obtained some great drone and GoPro footage of our work.

Community Engagement: 1 volunteer worked with Earthsound geophysicists for 1 day (volunteer labour contribution: €164). The survey was filmed for RTE television and culminated in a large commemoration on the last day of survey, attended by more than 220 people, with Earthsound geophysicists on hand to explain the survey, it’s purpose and findings.

Outcomes: The 2016 geophysical survey culminated in a large commemoration ceremony (see below) attended by local school children and adults, the Army and many local politicians. The survey results will be integrated in to a management plan for the site.

The geophysical surveys were carried out as part of a research project managed by Wolfhound Archaeology, funded by Tipperary County Council, Ireland 1916-2016 and The Heritage Council. The research formed part of the Annacarty Remembers event, which commemorated the events of the War of Independence and Civil War.

The school children lead the procession up the hill towards the Barracks.

School children lead the procession up the hill towards the Barracks.

Annacarty Barracks, which was originally constructed as an RIC barracks in the early 19th Century, saw considerable action during the conflicts prior to the foundation of the Irish state.

In the spring of 1922, the truce had been signed and the barracks handed over to the volunteers. The children of Annacarty N.S. were marched up the hill to the barracks by the principal, Mr. Slattery and sang Amhrán na bhFiann for the volunteers as they raised the tri-colour.

The procession recreated the original event in 1922.

The procession recreated the original event in 1922.

On June 10th 2016, the event was recreated by more than 220 school children, local residents and visitors. The building bears the scars of these battles but is otherwise virtually untouched since it was burnt out after a short but violent siege in 1922 during the Civil War.

The Annacarty Remembers gathering walks up the hill to the Barracks.

The Annacarty Remembers gathering walking up the hill to the Barracks.

The surveys were led by Heather Gimson and supported by Dr James Bonsall, Darren Regan and Cian Hogan, who used various geophysical instruments to map additional structures around the barracks and carried out a detailed photogrammetry survey.

The magnetometer cart at the RIC Barracks

The magnetometer cart at rest by the RIC Barracks while John Creedon does some filming

Recording bullet holes in the wall. In the meantime, the 'Bone Detector' takes a snooze.

Recording bullet holes in the wall. In the meantime, the ‘Bone Detector’ takes a snooze.

Magnetometry and EMI carts

Magnetometry and EMI carts

GPR in action at the RIC Barracks

GPR in action at the RIC Barracks

We enjoyed wonderful hospitality from the people of Annacarty, who really welcomed us to their village. Particular thanks are due to Tom Tuohy, The Parish Shop & Tea Rooms and the Crossroads Pub (which kept us – and the dog – in great health with lots of ice creams and drinks.

Dr Bonsall’s Tutorial on the Historic Environment Viewer

Earthsound director Dr James Bonsall gives a brief tutorial on using the new Historic Environment Viewer and gives an overview of some new additions.

Yesterday, the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht launched the new Historic Environment Viewer which combines the databases of the National Monuments Service Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) and the National Inventory of Architectural Heritage (NIAH), and replaces the previous National Monuments Viewer.

New features include:

  • Enhanced Query and Draw Functions
  • Architectural Heritage
  • High quality Digital Globe aerial photographs

Lecture at Kilmovee Community Centre: ‘Archaeology of Kilcashel’

Archaeology of Kilcashel.

Dr James Bonsall, director of Earthsound Archaeological Geophysics and Lecturer at IT Sligo gave a talk on the latest findings from the Kilcashel Landscape Project at the Kilmovee Winter Lecture Series on Tuesday December 15th, in the Kilmovee Community Centre, Co. Mayo.


Dr James Bonsall talks at the Kilmovee Winter Lecture Series about the Kilcashel Landscape Project at Kilmovee.

James’ talk focused on the range of archaeological sites in Kilcashel, from Bronze Age fulacht fia to medieval cashels and 19th century mud cabins.

James was also interested in people’s use,  experience or memories of the archaeological sites in Kilcashel townland – the cashels that are no longer there, Father Henry’s Fort and any other memories of buildings, archaeology and folklore. These all contributed to a Database of Archaeology in Kilcashel townland, which led to the longest Q&A session in the history of the Kilmovee Winter Lecture Series!


Woodstock Castle, Athy, Co. Kildare

Yesterday, Earthsound Archaeological Geophysics had the pleasure of returning to Athy in County Kildare to carry out magnetometry and electromagnetic induction surveys at Woodstock Castle. This is the latest in a number of projects that we have carried out in Athy over the past few years, which have included geophysical and LiDAR investigations of the historic Town Walls and Black Castle Tower which have been a part of the ongoing efforts of the Athy Heritage Centre-Museum to inform locals and visitors alike on the wonderful history of their town! rsz_wp_20151015_12_30_52_pro__highres

Cian Hogan and Darren Regan of the Earthsound Field Division braved a cold October morning to survey the environs of the castle. Darren was filmed for a short video that documented the surveys for the benefit of the local national school.


We love returning to Athy each year to add a little bit more knowledge to the development of this important medieval town and this is just the latest in a long line of projects for the Athy Heritage Centre-Museum!

Since the year 2013, Earthsound have had an ongoing relationship with the Athy Heritage Centre-Museum in connection with The South Kildare Medieval Heritage Project on a variety of projects which encompass geophysical surveys, historical research and public outreach campaigns.  The first project we engaged in involved a number of geophysical surveys in order to detect the location and morphology of the historic town halls, an investigation we returned to again in another area of the town in October of 2016. The work carried out in October 2016 involved the use of Ground Penetrating Radar and led to the discovery of a number of significant anomalies such as possible walls, defensive structures and remains associated with a mortuary site.

As part of these ongoing projects, Earthsound has spoken and given demonstrations at a number of community activities based in the town in order to explain the work we have carried out and to hopefully give a greater understanding to the residents of the archaeological and historical heritage that surrounds them.

Athy is part of the Irish Walled Towns Network and Earthsound have undertaken similar studies on Cashel Walled Town and Castledermot Walled Town.

Surveying the Neolithic Shell Middens of the Shelly Valley

Come and see the archaeological excavation and survey in the Shelly Valley tomorrow. Meet the archaeologists from IT Sligo, University of Georgia and Earthsound Archaeological Geophysics who are investigating the prehistoric midden complex. We’ll be at the base of the Big Dune, Strandhill at 4pm!

Earthsound are part of a team of international archaeologists carrying out a cutting edge geoarchaeological survey to unlock the secrets of prehistoric sites at Strandhill. Katharine Napora from The University of Georgia in the U.S. and Dr. James Bonsall, director of Earthsound and a lecturer in Applied Archaeology at IT Sligo, are examining prehistoric midden sites in the Shelly Valley, in a project funded by National Geographic.

Middens – mounds of shells, bone and charcoal – are ancient refuse heaps built from the remains of discarded food waste. The Shelly Valley – named after the middens – is home to a large number of these sites which are believed to date to the Neolithic and are visible at the base of the dune.  “Many people visit Strandhill and the Shelly Valley to see the large dunes, but most don’t realise that they are actually walking across a prehistoric landscape” says Dr. Bonsall.

Katharine Napora’s research will compare the Sligo middens with similar sites on the east coast of America. Dr. Bonsall, his IT Sligo students and Earthsound are using the latest geophysical and high resolution mapping methods to ‘see beneath the sands’ to map the extent of the middens. Katharine Napora will be using a combination of analytical geoarchaeological techniques on the middens to unlock their secrets. “We’re hoping to find out how old the different middens are, if they were constructed at the same time, how long they were used for and what types of food our ancestors were eating” says Katharine.

Katharine would like to invite any interested people to come out this Sunday, June 7th, at 4 pm to the Shelly Valley (the Big Dune) at Strandhill Beach to learn about how the latest technologies are being integrated into modern archaeological research. Visitors can see a National Geographic-sponsored project in action as we investigate through geoarchaeology how past inhabitants of Strandhill interacted with the ocean and its resources.

Rathnadrinna Research Project

Combined geophysical survey results overlaid onto aerial photograph of Rathnadrinna, Cashel, Co. Tipperary


Project: Rathnadrinna Research Project, Cashel, Co. Tipperary.

Year: 2009-2014

Client: Richard O’Brien, funded by the Heritage Council and the Royal Irish Academy.

View of three banks and ditches overgrown by trees at Rathnadrinna.


Rathnadrinna Fort is a multivallate hilltop enclosure in the townland of Lalor’s-Lot outside Cashel, Co. Tipperary. It is one of the most impressive of several hilltop enclosures surrounding Cashel. In 2009, a project lead by Richard O’Brien began to carry out extensive investigations of the fort in order to gain further understanding of the history of the site. These included documentary research, aerial photographs, geophysical surveys and LiDAR. Earthsound were involved in the geophysical and LiDAR investigations of the enclosure and surrounding lands. The results of this research led up to a series of  archaeological excavations lasting three seasons from 2012-2014.


Heather, Tom and Mick using the Jalopy to collect earth resistance data inside the enclosure

Community Engagement: 

The Rathnadrinna Research project engaged members of the public throughout many of it’s stages. Locals and volunteers from all across the country and abroad were invited to join in the excavation team and be part of the project. Earthsound carried out a number of demonstrations of various geophysical techniques on site and some of the digging crew and visitors were able to get some hands on experience in operating the equipment.

Darren demonstrating the magnetometer cart

Loughmore National School children learning about metal detection

Geophysics: In 2009 we carried out high resolution magnetic susceptibility, magnetometry, earth resistance and ground penetrating radar surveys within Rathnadrinna Fort and in a surrounding field. The magnetic susceptibility and magnetometry data suggest an absence of occupation and industry inside Rathnadrinna, which could suggest by default a ceremonial or ritual role for the fort. Evidence for a (presumably prehistoric) field system which pre-dates the construction of Rathnadrinna was also found. Parts of the field system may be fossilised in the extant field boundaries of today and also hint towards a larger outer enclosure, also partly preserved in the modern field boundaries. The earth resistance survey identified 3 further circular enclosing ditches within Rathnadrinna fort and 1 possible ditch beyond the fort in Field 1, as well as a pit-circle at the centre of the fort. These suggest that Rathnadrinna may have been comprised of 6 concentric ditches (3 of which are extant), and a possible 7th ditch on the exterior. Combining this data with a potential larger outer enclosure comprised of extant outer field boundaries surrounding Rathnadrinna, suggests that possibly up to 8 circular enclosing features may have been identified.

3D display of combined geophysics interpretation on top of LIDAR image

In 2010 further geophysical surveys were carried out including high resolution magnetic susceptibility, magnetometry and earth resistance and electrical resistivity tomography surveys. A number of linear and curvilinear ditches and possible ditches or gullies have been detected across the survey area. Many of these appear to be associated with relict field boundaries. 19th century activity was also identified in the form of two possible structural remains which match features on the 1st edition OS map. The hilltop of Rathnadrinna is surrounded by an enclosure ditch measuring 250m in diameter. This single ditch enclosed the top of the hillside and has influenced the arcing nature of some of the modern field boundaries. A large number of circular ring-ditches and arcing ditches have also been detected outside the known fort. These appear to fall into two distinct types based on their size and morphology. Small ring-ditches measuring 15m-19m in diameter may represent foundation slot-trenches or drip gullies surrounding (unrecorded) wooden structures. Larger circular features measuring 40m in diameter, similar to the upstanding remains of the known satellite fort beside Rathnadrinna. These anomalies may therefore represent possible ploughed-out ringforts. The magnetic susceptibility data suggests an absence of burning activity – like inside the fort – perhaps discounting a settlement role for the ring-ditches and ringforts indicating that they might be burial or ritual monuments.

Electrical Resistivity Tomography (ERT) line running S-N across the monument including all banks and ditches.




Three seasons of excavations, beginning in June 2012 and the final season concluding in August of 2014, were directed by Richard O’Brien. Earthsound’s Heather Gimson was part of the digging crew as archaeological supervisor throughout all of the excavations. Additional Geophysical data was collected and demonstrations of the survey techniques were carried out by our staff on several occasions during the excavation seasons.

Heather and Meaghan planning stones in Ditch B, Season One 2012

Some of the crew, Season Two 2013









Cutting 1C at its busiest, Season Three 2014

Liam, Heather and Mick after finishing cutting 1C, Season Three 2014