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EDITIONS
 Thursday, 23 January, 2003, 16:31 GMT
Historic 'life' in Belfast uncovered
Looking for 17th century Belfast
Professional archaeologists working on the site

Archaeologists have been giving details of what is said to be the most important find of 17th Century artefacts ever made in Belfast.

An excavation of what was once a medieval village and plantation town has yielded more than 20,000 artefacts.

The foundations of homes and businesses dating back to the 1600s have been uncovered during the five month dig.

A piece of decorated pottery
A piece of decorated pottery was one of thousands of items found
The site, situated between Hill Street and Waring Street, in the city centre was part of a redevelopment scheme by the pub company Life Inns.

When the importance of the find became known, construction was delayed by the company who then invested 90,000 in the examination of the site.

Items recovered include 17th century coins, imported pottery as well as pottery made in Belfast.

'Treasure'

The archaeologist leading the dig, Ruairi O' Baoill, said the fragments found were without doubt the "most significant archaeological finds in Belfast to date".

"The artefacts which we have recovered from the site are something which both archaeologists and residents of Belfast can treasure forever," said Mr O'Baoill.

Archaeologist
Graham Heyburn: "Some memorable finds"
Another of the archaeologists on the site, Graham Heyburn, said the find was impressive because of the wide range of material gathered.

"My most memorable find was a key - this was an unusual find," he added.

The artefacts uncovered are displayed at the Environment and Heritage Services' office, yards from the dig and illustrate the variety of material found.

It includes fragments of pottery dating from the 16th and 17th Century as well as everyday implements such as a fan, a hair brush and coins.

Some of the pottery on show was believed to have been imported to Belfast from Germany and Holland.

John O' Keefe from the Department of Environment and Heritage Services said the discovery of local pottery was extremely important.

John O'Keefe of the Environment and Heritage Service
John O'Keefe: "Significant pottery finds"
"What is very significant is the pottery found here illustrates the first pottery to be made in Belfast."

The Belfast pottery, known as the Potthouse, existed between 1697 and 1725.

The excavation has also given archaeologists an insight into the lives of people who pioneered attempts at industry.

It provides a link to Belfast's inhabitants from the plantation period to the 18th Century recession.

While the pottery industry flourished during its first years it soon was in decline and was later replaced by the linen and ship industries.

See also:

08 Jan 03 | N Ireland
17 Aug 99 | N Ireland
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