Culture Night Film Preview

Historic Burials Excavated in Ballinasloe Discovered With 400-Year-Old Rosary Beads.

Atlantic Archaeology

Paternoster arranged for photograph
Trade Token 1649 - 1672
Atlantic Archaeology
Recording burials
Atlantic Archaeology

Archaeologists from Atlantic Archaeology excavated human remains separated by approximately a thousand years at two different locations in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. The upgrade work for this area was carried out as part of the Water Services Infrastructure Upgrade and Town Enhancement Scheme (TES) in Ballinasloe, Co. Galway. One of the burials was accompanied by a rare bone paternoster or set of rosary beads.

St. Joseph’s Place

The earliest remains were found by archaeologists Nuala Hiney and Angela Wallace during site investigation works in St. Joseph’s Place on the western side of the town in 2011. Radiocarbon dated to between the 6th and 7th centuries AD, they are associated with the site of a church and cemetery levelled during the construction of the housing estate in the 1950s. As such, the dates confirm the presence of a religious community in the area during the early medieval period (400-800AD).

Paternoster, Society Street

In May 2020, a small cemetery was discovered in Society Street by archaeologist Fiona Maguire who is a native of Ballinasloe. Although this area was quite disturbed by modern services, the skeletal remains of at least 10 individuals, both adults and children, were identified. A remarkably well-preserved set of rosary beads or paternoster, consisting of 67 bone beads, was found around the foot and lower leg of one of the adult skeletons. This burial was identified as female aged between 35-44 years and was dated to 1477-1638 AD.  The associated find of paternoster rosary beads are between 400-500 years old. A well was also found next to the burials, which lies preserved below the renovated footpath.

Trade Tokens and Market House

This two-year project was undertaken by SIAC in conjunction with Ryan Hanley Consultant Engineers on behalf of Irish Water and Galway County Council. During the archaeological monitoring of the upgrade works some interesting artefacts and structural remains were uncovered. They included a trade token and coin (dating to the 17th century) as well as the foundations of Market House (built 1750-1850) in St. Michael’s Square. Correspondingly, the scale of engineering work involved in the design of the early town was reflected in the preservation of cut stone culverts, cast iron gas, water and sewage pipes and a clay levelling layer under some of the streets.

Understanding Ballinasloe History and Heritage

The discoveries revealed  during this project contribute significantly to the understanding of the early history of Ballinasloe and its people. It is hoped that they will also contribute to the development of a heritage plan for this important and very old market town.

Atlantic Archaeology in conjunction with Fionn Rogers have compiled a short video presentation on findings from the project for Culture Night this Friday 17th September. Video is accessible through Atlantic Archaeology youtube channel, link will be posted on Atlantic Archaeology and Galway Community Archaeology Facebook pages. It is also hoped to schedule an in person talk on findings in Ballinasloe Library as soon as Covid restrictions will allow. Full reports on all findings will also be available on Atlantic Archaeology website (

This page was added on 15/09/2021.

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