Excavation work started this week in an attempt to uncover more about the history of Carrickfergus Castle.
Archaeologists are conducting three weeks of tests as part of the ongoing work by the Department of the Environment to inform future development of the stronghold to enhance the visitor experience.
The castle has been continuously occupied for more than 800 years since it was constructed in the late twelfth century by John de Courcy. Excavations will be carried out at two locations to find out more about the date and survival of archaeology in the inner and outer wards. Neither of these areas have been subject to such detailed investigation before.
The Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork, Queen’s University Belfast, is carrying out the work on behalf of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
This programme is seen as vital before new projects are put in place as part of a £1.4million upgrade.
One area of testing will focus on the remains of the Great Hall. The second will be in the outer ward to find out what archaeological layers survive there at present.
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: “This is an exciting new phase in the life of Carrickfergus Castle. We do not know yet what we will find in the excavations and we want to make sure that any new discoveries become part of visitor experience at the site.”
The Mayor, Alderman Billy Ashe, commented: “This is a notable development and I look forward to witnessing the excavations at first hand. For visitors to the castle during the course of the next three weeks, the opportunity to view a ‘live’ dig is an exciting proposition and will undoubtedly enhance the visitor experience.”
Although the excavations will be fenced off for safety purposes, visitors will still be able to view them as they take place and see what the archaeologists are uncovering.