Carrowkeel Tombs, Bricklieve Mountains

This panorama photograph shows two of the fourteen Neolithic passage tombs of Carrowkeel in the Bricklieve Mountains, near Lough Arrow in south Co. Sligo (which can also be seen in the background). It was taken just before sunset in late January 2011.

There are fourteen cairns in the Carrowkeel complex which dates from 3200-2400 B. C. The passages within these cairns lead to limestone burial chambers with corbelled roofs, some of which are 9 feet high. The Irish for Carrowkeel is An Cheathrú Chaol which means 'the Narrow Quarter'.

The Carrowkeel tombs were first excavated in 1911 on behalf of in Royal Irish Academy by R. A. S. Macalister. However, many consider his work to be vandalisation rather than preservation as he and his assistants were said to have used dynamite and sledgehammers during a rushed two week endeavour.

Robert Lloyd Praeger accompanied Macalister on the dig and later recounted the moment of first entering one of the cairns:

'I lit three candles and stood awhile, to let my eyes accustom themselves to the dim light. There was everything, just as the last Bronze Age man (sic) had left it, three to four thousand years before. A light brownish dust covered all... There beads of stone, bone implements made from Red Deer antlers, and many fragments of much decayed pottery. On little raised recesses in the wall were flat stones, on which reposed the calcinated bones of young children'.

A particular type of crude pottery found in passage tombs has been titled 'Carrowkeel Ware'.


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