An archaeological excavation was undertaken on behalf of the Belfast Hills Landscape Partnership (BHLP), from 12 to 23 June 2017 at two sites at the National Trust Divis and Black Mountain property. The sites investigated were a stone enclosure, known as Divis Cashel and one of at least seven circular features thought to be a prehistoric settlement cluster. This work was undertaken as part of a wider project, organised by the BHLP in conjunction with the National Trust, , the Ulster Archaeological Society (UAS), the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork (CAF) and sponsored by the Big Lottery Fund.
The project attracted significant media attention, including BBC Radio Ulster and several newspaper articles. 593 members of the public, ranging from school groups to local people took part in the excavations, with a further 100 people participating in organised tours of the site. Accurate figures for the number of casual visitors to the site are not yet available, but it is estimated to be around 250. The excavations were directed by Dr Harry Welsh, Ruairí Ó Baoill and Ruth Logue from CAF and the excavation crew were drawn entirely from the UAS and recently finished final year undergraduate students from arcpal.
The main effort was at Divis Cashel, thought to date from the medieval period. The other was at one of the prehistoric huts. From preliminary findings, it would appear that the cashel is more likely to be a prehistoric enclosure, later re-used in the Victorian period, possibly as a forge. The hut site was found instead to be a burial cairn of probable Bronze Age date and the remaining six ‘hut sites’ are likely to be burial cairns as well, adding to the previous total of nine already identified in the National Trust property.
By any standard, the 2017 Divis excavations were therefore not only a great success as a community outreach exercise, but also as a research project and have significantly added to the archaeological record of the area.