Sunday, October 6, 2013

Drumanone Portal Tomb

Drumanone Portal Tomb - Co. Roscommon
Drumanone portal tomb or Dolmen is situated three kilometres west of Boyle town, Co. Roscommon, off the R294. It is one of the largest monuments of its type in Ireland and is thought to have been built sometime before 2000BC. This tomb lies some 300m north of the Boyle River close to Lough Gara. In order to view the tomb you have to cross the railway line with care ensuring that you close the gate behind you.

There are approximately 174 of these monuments in the country with the majority located in the northern half of the island. The tombs generally consist of two large boulders or portal-stones defining the entrance and a back-stone, all of which support the roof-stone or capstone.

Archaeologists believe that our ancient ancestors may have used a combination of wooden rollers, ropes and man/animal power to manoeuvre the giant stones into position. Ramps made of earth and stone may have been used to haul the large roof stones into place.

The rectangular chamber of the Drumanone tomb measures 2.2m x 1.95m and faces north east. The capstone measures approximately 4m x 3m. The sides of the chamber each consist of a single stone. The capstone has slipped back from the two portal stones forming the entrance and now looks like some kind of Stone Age satellite dish. The western stone has been tilted over by the weight of the slipped capstone and is now supported by a steel girder. The 1.2m space between the portals is closed by the door slab which is almost as tall as the portals. It is thought that these large stones may have come from the Curlew Mountains. A slight grass-covered cairn surrounds the stones

The Drumanone tomb was excavated by archaeologists in 1954 and was found to contain a considerable amount of cremated bone, indicating that the tomb was used to bury several individuals. A small polished stone axe was also found which archaeologists believe came from the Tievebulliagh Axe Factory in Co. Antrim. It is estimated that some 133 such stone axes were found along the shores of nearby Lough Gara. Other finds from this site include two flint flakes and a chert core scraper. Archaeologists believe that the presence of ‘Bann’ flakes at Drumanone may suggest the re-use of the site of an earlier structure. The land on which the tomb was built might, for example, have been a place for meeting or religious activity.

Poulnabrone Portal Tomb - Co. Clare
The iconic megalithic portal tomb at Poulnabrone in Co. Clare, one of Ireland’s most photographed archaeological sites, has revealed a wealth of information about the lives and burial customs of Ireland’s first farming communities. Here, archaeologists uncovered the remains of twenty two people, sixteen adults and six children, within the interior of the tomb including males and females.  It is thought that the bodies were firstly stored or buried elsewhere until they decomposed. The bones were then moved to the portal tomb for final burial.

Examination of the skeletal remains has given archaeologists an insight into the lives of the people who lived and built these tombs in the Neolithic or New Stone Age. They appear to have lived relatively short lives with only one person being older than 40. The arthritic condition of many of the neck and shoulder bones indicates that they worked hard and were used to carrying heavy loads. Examination of the teeth revealed that they suffered from periods of either malnutrition or infections, especially between the ages of three and six.

Archaeologists also found evidence that some of those buried at the Poulnabrone site had suffered violence.  One body, for example, had sustained a depressed fracture of the skull, possibly caused by being hit by a stone. In the case of another body, a fragment of a flint, probably an arrow head was found embedded in a hip bone.  It is believed that the Poulnabrone burials were deposited over a period of 600 years, between 3800 and 3200 BC, suggesting that the monument was probably an important burial place where only certain members of the community were allowed to be interred.

Whilst archaeologists do not have an actual date for the building of the Drumanone tomb it is believed to be over 4,000 years old and is an impressive example of its type. The findings from Poulnabrone and other similar sites give us an insight into the lives of the people who built Drumanone.

Reference: SMR Number RO005-105 (Archaeological Survey of Ireland, Record Details) on Compiled by Michael Moore. Posted24 August 2010

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