Shaftesbury Park Carrickfergus: Joe Mahon visits site as Queen's University Belfast's archaeological excavation concludes

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An archaeological dig at Shaftesbury Park in Carrickfergus has concluded with a visit from TV personality, Joe Mahon.

Best known as the presenter of UTV’s Lesser Spotted Ulster series, Mr Mahon joined the team from Queen’s University Belfast for the final stages of the excavation at the end of May.

The dig was part of a three-year archaeological heritage programme, organised by the Community Archaeological Programme Northern Ireland (CAPNI) based at QUB.

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The aim of CAPNI, which was made possible thanks to a grant of more than £600,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to the university’s Centre for Community Archaeology, is to engage the public with their local archaeological heritage.

TV presenter Joe Mahon with Ruairí Ó Baoill from the Centre for Community Archaeology at Queen's University Belfast.  Photo: QUBTV presenter Joe Mahon with Ruairí Ó Baoill from the Centre for Community Archaeology at Queen's University Belfast.  Photo: QUB
TV presenter Joe Mahon with Ruairí Ó Baoill from the Centre for Community Archaeology at Queen's University Belfast. Photo: QUB

The latest excavation at Shaftesbury Park aimed to investigate a fort marked on an 1830s map of the area.

While an earlier geophysical survey in March didn’t reveal any direct evidence of the outline of the fort itself, it did detect an ‘anomaly’ at the site that bore further investigation.

During the course of the dig, which ran over the last two weeks in May, a number of artefacts were unearthed, ranging from a prehistoric flint scraper to fragments of Victorian pottery.

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The next project for QUB’s team of archaeologists, along with current undergraduate students from QUB's archaeology programme, will be searching for the remains of Con O'Neill's castle in Castlereagh.  Photo: QUBThe next project for QUB’s team of archaeologists, along with current undergraduate students from QUB's archaeology programme, will be searching for the remains of Con O'Neill's castle in Castlereagh.  Photo: QUB
The next project for QUB’s team of archaeologists, along with current undergraduate students from QUB's archaeology programme, will be searching for the remains of Con O'Neill's castle in Castlereagh. Photo: QUB

In a update on the QUB - Archaeology at Queen's Facebook page on June 3, the team behind the project confirmed that the dig had concluded, with both excavation trenches backfilled. “Unfortunately we didn't find evidence of the 'fort' but did get an interesting snapshot into 19th century Carrickfergus, with a large assemblage of Victorian artefacts recovered,” the post added.

"Many thanks to the school groups, volunteers and visitors to the site - without you all the investigation couldn't have been the success it was!

“We were also joined by Joe Mahon at the end stages of the excavation who interviewed the site director Ruairi as well as Brian and Etain - this footage will air in the autumn so make sure you keep an eye out for us.”

Meanwhile, CAPNI’s next excavation in Castlereagh throughout June and into July will see QUB’s team of archaeologists, along with current undergraduate students from QUB's archaeology programme, embark on a quest to uncover the remains of Con O'Neill's castle.

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