Carrick Castle’s military history is being uncovered as an archaeological dig was granted an extension by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
A team from the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork at QUB are undertaking the work in one of the most detailed excavations yet at the site.
The project aims to inform future development of the medieval landmark and to enhance the visitor experience.
The excavations have already revealed new information about how the castle was used over the centuries, particularly its use in the Victorian period.
A significant number of gun flints have been uncovered in the past fortnight, reflecting the castle’s military past. Excavation director Ruairi O’Baoill explained: “These would have been an essential part of soldier’s kit in the 17th century and were used to ignite the powder in a musket so that the musket ball could be fired out.
“As Carrickfergus had a garrison for 750 years we would expect to find some material like this, but it’s unusual to find so many pieces of gun flint in one place, so we’re very excited about it.”
The dig itself has generated great interest among visitors to the castle, including a number of school groups.
“We’ve had a lot of tourists as well from the like of Poland, Germany and the United States stop to have a chat about the work we’re doing,” Ruairi added.
“There’s a strong interest in the military history of Carrickfergus. The castle was garrisoned continuously from the 1170s so there would continuously have been buildings knocked down and rebuilt.
“We’re looking at many different layers of history.”
Environment Minister Mark H Durkan said: “The discoveries that the archaeologists have already made at the castle are very impressive and further reinforce my belief in the importance of using archaeology excavations to inform our rich heritage history.”
Progress on the doing can be followed on the team’s facebook page at ww.facebook.com/CAFQUB.