Archaeologists to unearth hill’s hidden history

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Archaeologists are to carry out a major dig on Carnmoney Hill later this year in a bid to unearth hidden treasures of the past.

The Belfast Hills Partnership has secured funding to carry out the community archaeology project in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Queen’s University’s Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork.

The community archaeology dig, which will run for two weeks from May 19, will be used as a central hub to engage with school children, community groups and other local interest groups, inspiring local people to learn more about the rich heritage of Carnmoney and the wider Belfast Hills area.

To further enhance the value of the event, Newtownabbey Borough Council, in partnership with the Belfast Hills Partnership and the Woodland Trust, will be organising a family festival, talks and workshops to promote the biodiversity and heritage of the site to a wider audience.

At their monthly meeting on February 3, members of the council’s Leisure Committee were asked to consider a request from the Partnership for permission for the temporary use of an area of hard standing within Carnmoney Cemetery for a classroom and storage hut for the duration of the dig.

The meeting was informed that a suitable area has been identified by the cemeteries supervisor which will provide a safe drop off point and easy access to the dig site for school and community groups, with no impact on cemetery work.

Concerns were raised by Cllr Billy Webb about the suitability of opening up the pedestrian gate onto the hill in an area where burials may be taking place, suggesting that the location could be accessed from Rathfern.

Lindsay Houston, the council’s biodiversity officer, pointed out that the dig site is a 45-minute walk from the Rathfern entrance - “too far for small children to walk.”

Hugh Kelly, director of environment services, gave an assurance that if any burials are taking place, the sensitivities of the families involved will be the main consideration.

Cllr Lynn Frazer said last year’s archaeological dig at Cave Hill was extremely successful, attracting many school groups and members of the public.

“I’m quite excited about it and I think it will be a wonderful event,” she commented.


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