New evidence for pre Anglo-Norman bone and antler working at Saint Canice’s cathedral

New insights into the economy and topography of the early medieval monastery of Cill Chainnigh has been revealed by excavations at the Robing Room, near the Bishop’s Palace. The excavations were carried out by Kilkenny Archaeology on behalf of the Heritage Council as part of the conservation works for the eighteenth century Robing Room. The excavation found evidence for the levelled embankment that surrounded the inner sacred space where the round tower stands. This bank covered a pit that was filled with waste from a bone and antler workshop. One of the antler tines was radiocarbon dated to the period 1000-1140 ca. AD. Antler tines have been foundon three other occasions around the cathedral close but this is the first time they have been dated. The date confirms the industry is related to the pre Anglo-Norman period when the cathedral was the chief church in Ossory and a major power centre. The high status of the site has also been confirmed by Nikolah Gilligan’s analysis of the charred plant remains from the pit. One of the most interesting of Nikolah’s findings was a single grape pip. This appears to be the earliest evidence yet found in Ireland for grape and raises many interesting questions. Were grapes grown in early medieval Kilkenny? Or was this an import? Whatever the answer it underlines the status of the monastic site in the eleventh-twelfth centuries and also the fact Kilkenny was the height of sophistication long before the rest of the country! The botanical report can be downloaded here:


And the preliminary report on the excavation here: