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23 November 2015
5,000-year-old tomb discovered in Ireland

A hilltop tomb close to the edge of Tievebaun (Taobh Ban, or 'grassy slope') mountain in County Leitrim, about 300 kilometres west of Dublin, may be more than 5,000 years old.
     Archaeologist Michael Gibbons, who identified this and other tombs in the area, says a series of discoveries there suggests layers of history spanning the Neolithic, bronze, iron, and post-medieval periods challenge the widely held view that there were no significant upland settlements in north Leitrim in pre-historic times.
     Carbon dating of human remains found last year in a cave on Knocknarea mountain in County Sligo were 5500 years old.
     Gibbons discovered this latest tomb while exploring the hill's summit above the well-known landmark of Eagle's Rock, more than 600 metres above sea level. "This one is a Neolithic tomb probably built 5,500 years ago as a communal burial area. It is a spectacular setting overlooking Donegal Bay, Slieve League, Lough Melvin and Glenade lake."
     "It was an incredible achievement to construct it here," says Gibbons, adding that it is extraordinary to think humans survived on this plateau about 300 metres above today's modern settlements. "Obviously it was a good deal warmer and drier in the early Neolithic period."
     The tomb is one of a series of hilltop tombs across the north west of Ireland, including the massive stone mound called Queen Maeve's [pronounced 'Mab's'] Grave on Knocknarea.
     A number of important sites on the mountain span several thousand years. As well as Bronze Age animal enclosures, there is evidence of late medieval settlements used as temporary dwellings when people drove their cattle up the mountain to graze during the summer months.

Edited from The Irish Times (9 November 2015)

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