Press Release: Results of Geophysical Survey at Site of Possible Spanish Armada Mass Grave

In July 2015 the San Marcos Project and Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd conducted a geophysical survey at the site of Tuama Na Spainneach, Spanish Point, Co. Clare. The survey, which was financially supported by The Heritage Council, was aimed at identifying possible targets which may represent the buried remains of those lost on the San Marcos and San Esteban when both vessels foundered off-shore on 20 September 1588. The Tuama itself is a low mound which local folklore identifies as the grave site of the Armada victims.

The Survey Area in Spanish Point

The Survey Area in Spanish Point

The San Marcos Project was founded in 2014 as a community group with a goal of locating and identifying the remains of the San Marcos, a Portuguese galleon which participated in the Armada campaign. The project consists of participants from the local towns and villages of Spanish Point, Quilty, Miltown Malbay and Mullagh. In 2014, the project focused on exploring the reputed wreck site of the San Marcos near Mutton Island. A marine geophysical survey was carried out by Geomara in June 2014 and the San Marcos Project team has been concentrating on diving a number of anomalies developed from Geomara’s survey. In 2015, it was decided to expand the search to assess the landward archaeology suggested by local folklore and historical sources. Consequently, in consultation with Rubicon Heritage an application for funding to assess the Tuama site was successfully made to the Heritage Council.

Rubicon Heritage Services are Ireland’s leading commercial archaeological company and are specialists in military archaeology, community outreach and communicating archaeological research. Their team used Fluxgate magnetometry at Tuama Na Spainneach in an effort to identify sub-surface features there, be they ditches, pits or structures. This data has now been processed and a final report completed. You can access the full report by clicking on the link below:

Tuama Na Spainneach Geophysics Report

The field in which Tuama Na Spainneach is located produced a number of readings which are worthy of further study. As well as locating old-field boundaries and features associated with a vernacular settlement, the survey also identified the known site of a small silver/fin whale burial in 1961. Three other unknown targets of similar size and magnetic signature to this burial were identified. Though it is not possible to state these three targets represent burials without further investigation, the fact that they are comparable in nature to a known-burial at the site raises the potential that they may be associated with the Spanish Armada victims.

The San Marcos Project and Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd hope to continue their exploration of this and other sites along Clare’s Armada coast, following up on the promising results of this initial survey.

For further details regarding the work contact Dr. John Treacy of the San Marcos Project at john.j.treacy@mic.ul.ie or Damian Shiels of Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd at damian.shiels@rubiconheritage.com

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