Court and passage-Tombs
Co. Sligo
Nearest town: Sligo
Nearest village: Standhill
Map references: Map 2 (West) 166333

Carrowmore ImageToday, about 60 sites (of over a hundred or more) still survive

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Carrowmore is the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Ireland. The tombs are spread out over 3.8 sq km (1.5sq mi) in the shadow of the Knocknarea to the east, over a number of fields and townlands, most of them situated near the road. Carrowmore's placement on a low-lying gravel ridge contrasts to the hilltop situation of other cemeteries; each mounment stands on its own little eminence.
    Nearly 100 ancient monuments were originally present on this extensive site. Academic vandalism in Victorian times and modern gravel quarrying have left only about 65 sites, but the atmosphere of the area remains quite extraordinary. The majority of tombs are a mixture of small passage-tombs and dolmens, usually surrounded by a stone kerb and constructed with the large rounded granite boulders of the area. On this site there are several examples of what appear to be stone circles but which are, in fact, the kerbing stones of cairns which have disappeared. Some, however, are considered transitional forms between the heavy kerbs of cairns and the true free-standing stone circles.
    One of the largest tombs is Site 51, known as Listoghil, a large stone cairn (between 35-41m - 115-134ft) with carvings on its sill and capstone. This site is typical of the group, a type which spread west and north from the Boyne Valley, via Loughcrew and Carrowkeel.
    The Site 27 is a very early version of the passage-tomb, in a cruciform shape, it's one of the largest surviving monuments of the Carrowmore cemetery. In this tomb the Dowth lozenge layout of four central pillars is repeated. Its probable construction date (3825 BC) controversially proposes that these tombs in western and eastern Ireland were not initiated by Brittany's megalith builders at all, but instead were developed independently by an already existing indigenous Neolithic population.
    Site 4, dated about 4600 BC, contains the remains of a passage-tomb which may be the earliest in the country. Such an early date, however, is controversial. This tomb is one of the smallest complete sites in the cemetery and produced the remains of over 65 fragments of antler pins, including seven pieces with mushroom-shaped heads, as well as over 30 kilos of cremated human bone.
    Site 7 is a megalith with a polygonal chamber of five 1.3m (4.2ft) tall stones supporting a large capstone and with two additional stones at the entrance. It stood at the centre of a 13m (42ft) circle of 31 boulders, and appears to have had no mound covering it originally.
    Only the boulder kerb of Site 26 remains. The tomb proper was demolished when Later Bronze Age or Early Iron Age peoples reorganised the site as a ritual enclosure about 680 to 490 BC.
    Swedish excavations at Carrowmore from 1977 to 1979 suggested that the small, simple tombs, were probably very early burial-places of immigrant farming families.

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