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Chapel Hill, Balladoole Ship Burial

Period: Early Medieval

NGR Easting: 224703

NGR Northing: 468182

Description: The ship burial lay at the eastern end of the hilltop and its position is now marked by a boat-shaped arrangement of white stones forming a kerb around a low mound. The mound was significantly larger before excavation in 1944-45, which led to an expectation that it formed part of the defences of a hillfort.

None of the ship's timbers survived and instead a spread of 300 or so iron nails defined the outline of the vessel, suggesting a ship 11 metres long. The burial lies at the highest point of the hill, with clear views out to sea. Some of the stones within the burial cairn had been placed so as to support the mast or a substantial post, which would have drawn further attention to the burial.

Within the ship were found the remains of a man and his grave goods. These included a bronze ring-headed pin and a gilded belt buckle. There were also iron knives, a flint strike-a-light, and an iron cauldron. The most spectacular items, however, were a collection of riding gear, including a bridle, stirrups and spurs with ornamental buckles. There was also a shield, but no sword.

The burial was completed with the cremated remains of animals representing the dead man’s domestic possessions - his land and livestock - apparently sacrificed so that they could accompany him in the afterlife.

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Site & Monument Type: ship burial

Category: National Monuments Record: Statutory Ancient Monuments

Site ID number: 0001.30

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