Poulnabrone Dolmen and Portal Tomb is one of the most Dramatic megalithic sites in Ireland, it has superb sculptured form and is easily access from the road.
During the summer months it must be one of the most visited dolmens in the country. The day I visited and took these pictures it was overcast and grey, so there was less visitors than I can imagine at other times. When the site was excavated in 1986 they found some human remains some 16 adults and children plus some of their artifacts, together they dated the tomb to around 3600 B C.
The entrance some 2 meters high faces north, The capstone is tilted at the usual angle for a Doland of this type, it measures about 3 1/2 metres long and some 2 metres wide.
The name Poulnabrone means ‘ the hole of the sorrows’ There are many other interesting sites near poulnabrone including the Wedge tomb at Gleninsheen and Baur South and the Stone Fort at Caherconnell.
Situated on Karst limestone, in a field east of the Ballyvaughan – Corrofin Road the Poulnabrone Dolmen is one of Irelands more accessable megalithic structures.
Arriving at this great location of the Brownshill Dolmen, county Carlow on a typical overcast early autumn day in Ireland. I located the site of the largest Dolmen in this part of Europe very easily as there are plenty of road signs to help you.
There is a small walk through a field an up-to a preserved area containing the Dolmen itself, the information board is of great help and places this construction into it context.
It is the cap stone that is the most impressive part of this Dolmen.
Discover Ireland describes this monument as follows :
The Brownshill Dolmen is an unmistakable monument to the east of Carlow town dating back to pre-historic times.
Its date of construction has been estimated at between 4,900 and 5,500 years ago and it is thought that religious rites were performed here. Some authorities also suggest that it may have served as a form of border marker.
Whatever it’s original purpose, it represents a tangible link between the present and the past. The magnificent granite capstone, weighing about 103 tonnes, has excited the interest of many antiquarians and tourists for centuries.
Brownshill Dolmen, county Carlow : Gallery
Portal tombs, Dolmen’s, portal graves or quoit are a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of two or more upright stones supporting a large flat horizontal capstone (table), although there are also more complex variants. Most date from the early Neolithic period (4000 to 3000 BC). Dolmens were typically covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow. In many instances, that covering has weathered away, leaving only the stone “skeleton” of the burial mound intact.
It remains unclear when, why, and by whom the earliest tomb’s were made. The oldest known tomb’s are in Western Europe, where they were set in place around 7000 years ago.
County Kilkenny has two such Tombs , the Newmarket tomb and the Kilmogue Portal Tomb at Harristown, both are dated to some 6000 years of age.
I did a little more reading on these tombs and it is very clear that they are very widely spread through out the world as the link below details :
The link shows their world wide locations as :
3.1.3 Eurasia (North Western Caucasus) Circassia
3.1.4 Middle East
3.2.1 Horn of Africa
3.2.2 North Africa
You can see the full details by the link above!
I have been visiting these sites in Ireland for sometime as in Ireland we have many passage tombs through out the country.
Understanding however just how international these locations are is very fascinating.
It needs to be remembered that some 6000 years ago very few of the nations we know, if any existed and people travelled without boarders.
The first time anyone gave Ireland a name as such, it was called “Hibernia”.
Hibernia is the Classical Latin name for the island of Ireland. The name Hibernia was taken from Greek geographical accounts. During exploration of northwest Europe (c. 320 BC), Pytheas of Massilia called the island Iérnē (written Ἰέρνη). In his book Geographia (c. 150 AD), Claudius Ptolemaeus (“Ptolemy”) called the island Iouerníā (written Ἰουερνία, where “ου”-ou stands for w). The Roman historian Tacitus, in his book Agricola (c. 98 AD), uses the name Hibernia. The Romans also sometimes used Scotia, “land of the Scoti”, as a geographical term for Ireland in general, as well as just the part inhabited by those people.
Something that becomes very clear is that the peoples who lived in many different world wide locations often shared the same culture, they lived very closely to and with their environment, they were clearly pagan in their beliefs and as such very close to their surroundings.
Life would have been completely different from the life we know, they lived and moved to the cycles of the seasons, they eat and lived of the wildlife and nature that surrounded them, in some season they would have little food if any.
They clearly had Gods and figure heads, yet we have a tendency to place our own modern religious understanding on-to what this meant to them directly.
It is likely that their Gods were Mythical in nature and derived from memories of real people who they connected with different elements and forces of life that affected the way they lived and survived.
This wikipedia page lists some of the celtic Gods and Goddesses and shows the forces of life and nature that they were related to.
Kilkenny Portal tomb Gallery
NewMarket Portal Tomb
Kilmogue Portal Tomb