Carrowmore Complex

Page 1

This megalithic cemetery is the largest in Ireland and amongst the oldest in Europe. Built around 4600-3900 BC. There were originally over 80 monuments on this site including chamber tombs, ring forts, cairns and passage graves. There are about 30 sites still worth visiting. Excavations by Swedish Archaeologists which began in 1977 produced radio-carbon dates that may place some of the tombs around 4600BC. A large area of the cemetery is state owned under Duchas the Heritage service. Since my first visit the state has acquired even more land on the western side of the road opposite the visitors centre.

I think the best way to visit this site is to go to the visitor centre first and see the tombs on that side of the road (numbers 48 to 59) and then visit the tombs under state ownership on the other side of the road ( numbers 1 to 7) and finally visit the tombs in the surrounding private fields. The tombs are generally known by numbers assigned to them by George Petrie in 1837. Almost all the tombs in Carrowmore that are shown on this web site were originally passage tombs. All that remains of most of them is a boulder circle, some have dolmens or chambers intact and others do not, some tombs have only the cromleac remaining. Tomb number 1 is a boulder circle with a dolmen in the centre. This tomb is on a slightly raised platform and is over forty feet in diameter. It also has an inner circle consisting of smaller stones.

All that remains of tomb 2 are the stones pictured above

Tomb 3 was excavated in 1979 and has a radiocarbon date of 4,600 BC making it the oldest tomb on the site. The tomb is over forty feet in diameter and the boulder circle has some twenty eight stones. At the centre of the tomb is a cromleac but the capstone has been displaced. The Cromleac is a double cist and when excavated this tomb produced more finds than any other tomb at Carrowmore.

Tomb 4 pictured above is a fine example of what most of the dolmens would have looked like. It has a capstone about 1.4 metres in height supported by five stones. The boulder circle was about forty feet in diameter and when Petrie visited in 1837 contained 40 stones. At present only one of these stones remain. Tomb 6 was completely destroyed, it is believed to have been a dolmen boulder circle with a cromleac, destroyed in about 1815.

Tomb 7 is probably one of the most photographed tombs at Carrowmore. It is by far the best example of dolmen and circle in the Carrowmore complex. Excavated in 1978 this tomb gave a date of c3825 BC. The tomb stands on a manmade platform and this circle is also about forty feet in diameter and consists of thirty two boulders. Opening to the south east, the chamber has a small porch which through excavation has been shown to be part of a passage leading to the chamber.

Tomb 9

Two hundred and fifty metres north of tomb 7 lies tomb 9. This tomb consists of eight remaining boulders or stones. The tomb is featured in Burl's Guide to stone circles of Britain and Ireland in which he states that in any other county or country this site would be called a stone circle. As you can see from the image shown left and due to a few 'Beware of the Bull' signs. I was unable to get closer to the circle.

 

 

 

The only part remaining of tomb 13 are the dolmen pictured above. It is also an excellent example and has a huge capstone resting on six stones. There are a number of other stones next to the dolmen on the western side which may have belonged to the passage. The boulder circle was destroyed by a road running through it; this image was actually taken from that road. Further to the south of this tomb in the corner of the field are a few stones that are the remains of tomb 14.

If you take a left turn right after tomb 13 and walk 50 metres you will find tomb 15 on your left - another boulder circle lying in the same field as tombs 13 and 14. This was a double circle about 12 metres in diameter with a cromleac, but only about seventeen stones now remain with scant remains of the dolmen.

Tomb 16

Tomb 17

Tomb sixteen is also on the left of the road as you head eas t- it runs along the side of a driveway. There is only a mound with very few stones remaining. There are a number of boulders lying up against the shed in the background behind the mound which may have belonged to the tomb. Further along the road you will come to a cottage on your right. This cottage has been built in the most amazing position, situated between tombs 17 and 18. Located up against an out-house and the hedgerow is tomb 17. This tomb is also thought to have been a double circle with inner chamber or dolmen. The outer circle was also partly destroyed by the road.

On the southern side of the cottage is Tomb 18 - another ruined double circle that may have contained a double cist or dolmen that has disappeared since 1837. I think the three images shown above speak volumes about our planning laws.

The picture above shows tomb 19, the largest of all the boulder circles. Seventy feet in diameter and comprised of 49 the circle originally had 52 stones. Knocknarea mountain can be seen in the background, on the summit you can make out the great cairn of Miosgan Meadhbha, which is associated with Queen Maeve.

The tomb on the right is numbered twenty and all that remains now is a small mound with a few boulders scattered around it. It is in the same field as tomb nineteen. The original circle had twelve stones according to George Petrie.

 

The image below shows tombs 19 and 20 in the distance with a large boulder to their left which is believed to be all that is left of tomb 21. Tomb 22 is shown in the foreground. Extensive quarrying took part in this area and tombs 23, 24 and 25 have been completely destroyed. Tomb 22 has also been damaged by the quarrying but most of the stones appear to remain on site.

Tomb 20

The tomb above is definitely number twenty six and is located in the same field as tomb number twenty seven. The circle is on the edge of a modern quarry and consists of 30 boulders but origially there may have been 38 boulders. Further into the field is the boulder circle number 27, pictured below.

Tomb 27

This tomb was another double boulder circle, the inner circle was made up of small stones that are now almost completely covered. This tomb contained a cruciform arrangement of chambers, one of these chambers is shown on the left, you can make out the outer boulder circle in the background.

 

 

 

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