Megalithic Tombs

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Most of the megalithic tombs were constructed from 4,000-2,000 BC ‘The most prominent remains of the early prehistoric period are the megalithic tombs’. (Waddell, 1998, 57). These tombs introduced megalithic architecture to Ireland. The name megalithic is derived from the Greek words megas which means great and lithos which means stone. There are ‘over 1500 megalithic tombs’ which have been recorded in Ireland from the ‘systematic field survey’. (Waddell, 1998, 57). The monuments illustrate explicit skill and design techniques which would suggest that they were more than just tombs to the people who constructed them. The main classes of tombs found in Ireland are: court tombs, portal tombs, passage tombs and wedge tombs. The aim of this essay…show more content…
There are 390 court tombs throughout the country. These tombs ‘have long cairns’, cairn meaning pile of stones, which is a ‘trapezoidal shape’. (Waddell, 1998, 78). Their most ‘distinctive feature is a roofless oval or U-shaped courtyard’ which is defined by orthostats (standing stones). (Ryan, 1991, 55). The court allows for access to a gallery which consists of ‘one or more chambers’. (Waddell, 1998, p. 78). Occasionally ‘the galleries are placed back to back’ and have courts ‘at either end of the cairn’. (Ryan, 1991, 55). The length of the cairn varies but measures of 25m and 35m are the most frequent and the ‘maximum width is usually about half the length’. (Waddell, 1998, 78). The distribution map on page seventy nine of Waddell’s book shows that the concentration of the court tombs occurs mainly to the north of the country. With a large proportion of the distribution also occurring in the Mayo-Sligo region. Variations of the court tomb exist from a simple monument to much more elaborate design. The main types identified are ‘open court tombs, full court tombs, dual court tombs and transeptal court tombs’. (Waddell, 1998, 78). An open court tomb which consists of two chambers is the most simple and basic monument type. This basic tomb with an open court and two chambers is evident at Tully, near Derrygonnelly in Co. Fermanagh. A full court tomb at Creevykeel, Co. Sligo consists of a narrow passage which is ‘4.5m…show more content…
(Waddell, 1998, 88). A large capstone covers the tomb and most of these tombs are a tripod design. The capstone is supported by standing stones which form the sides and end of the chamber. At Proleek in Co. Louth there is an example of the portal tomb were a large capstone ‘perched on two portals’ remains. (Waddell, 1998, 88). Excavation of the portal tomb by ‘Ann Lynch in 1986 and 1988’ at Poulnabrone, Co. Clare shows that the side stones of the ‘rectangular chamber’ were kept in place by a large capstone. (Waddell, 1998, 90). The surrounding cairn was oval in shape and extended ‘about three metres’ from the side stones of the chamber. (Waddell, 1998, 90). Human remains of twenty two individuals were found and were both from adults and children. There is a similarity between portal and court tombs as they both have a single chamber and are sub rectangular in shape. Both entrances are the same as they have a pair of portal stones with a ‘sill or closing stone’ between. (Waddell, 1998, 91). On page eighty nine of Waddell’s book the distribution map shows the majority of the portal tombs are mainly in the North of the country. There is also a scattering distribution of them throughout the country especially in
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