| 6 January 2007
Thousands of feet are destroying Maeve's Cairn
The prominent stone mound on Knocknarea mountain is a well-known archaeological monument and a popular visitor attraction, as well as a famous Sligo (Ireland) landmark. Unfortunately this popularity may be its downfall. The cairn is gradually being eroded by people climbing on top of the mound; this erosion is particularly evident on the main approach from the carpark. Having climbed up the path to the top of the mountain many visitors climb the mound as part of the final ascent to the summit. This heavy foot traffic has forged a deep scar in the mound and with recent heavy rainfall this furrow has enlarged considerably to the extent that the stone construction of the mound has loosened and slipped to the base of the cairn. If visitors continue to climb the cairn the damage will be considerable.
Although it is difficult to control visitors climbing the cairn, no attempt has been made by the authorities to erect signs instructing people not to climb the mound or remove stones from the cairn. There is no information board near the monument to inform the visitor of the archaeological significance of the mound. The lack of awareness of the importance of the cairn will lead to further destruction. Maeve's Cairn, or Miosgan Meadhbha, as it is locally known, is said to be the burial place of the legendary warrior Queen Medb of Connaught. Legend has it that Maeve is buried within the mound standing upright facing Ulster in readiness of battle.
As well as the tomb's association with one of the most famous legends of Ireland, the cairn is of national and international importance as an archaeological site. The mound is part of a greater archaeological landscape on the Knocknarea peninsula. It is the central tomb of a complex of at least five other tombs on Knocknarea Mountain; it also overlooks the tombs of Carrowmore cemetery to the east. The mound itself is at least 10 metres high and 60 metres in diameter. Maeve's Cairn is likely to be a passage grave and Neolithic in date, approximately 3000 BCE. Unfortunately, little has been done to protect Maeve’s Cairn from destruction. We can only hope that highlighting the irreversible erosion that is occurring to the mound will discourage visitors from climbing the cairn or removing stones from it, so that no further damage will occur to this enigmatic and ancient monument.
Source: Sligo Weekender (2 January 2007)
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