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During the 2016 summer season, the IFPA [Irish Fieldschool of Prehistoric Archaeology] will be excavating two prehistoric wedge tombs, built over 4000 years ago by a Chalcolithic/Early Bronze Age society, in the west of Ireland. The tombs are situated among the densest concentration of such tombs in Ireland, on Roughan Hill, in the beautiful karstic landscape of the Burren, County Clare. During the 2015 season we excavated the first wedge tomb in this significant cluster and we are currently analysing the remains we recovered. Some exciting answers are coming to light, however, these are leading to more questions about this prehistoric society.
Details here.

Kyngeston and On

(an alternate version of an article written for Dunmanway Doings Volume VI – 2014)

Gordon J.R. Kingston


It’s early morning. The earth breathes out a heavy mist and the dew gathers on the spines and the cobwebs on the furze. The fog seems to hang over Lough Atarriff, leaving a void that mirrors the shape of the surface below. A car engine sounds in the distance. You think that it’s just you (and whatever creeps and crawls unseen through the wet grass) that’s moving. But you’re not alone. Four grey figures stand, one fallen, in relief against the whiteness, as if all else; hill, valley, present, past, has been carved away from around them. They are static, but filled with a hovering tension, in which verticality and circularity combine; to form the illusion of movement, or life, or the quality of art.

The stone circle at Lettergorman is set…

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The Poulnabrone Portal Tomb
Image credit EU 3D-Icons
The EU ‘3D-Icons’ project aims to create highly accurate 3D models and a range of other materials (images, texts and videos) of iconic and internationally important monuments and buildings across Europe and to provide access to this data on line.
Over 130 monuments and buildings from Ireland, including decorated high crosses, the island monastery of Skellig Michael, the passage tombs of Knowth and Newgrange, and the ceremonial landscape of Tara are featured in this digital collection. In addition to making content available on line, this data has the potential to be of benefit to such sectors as education, tourism, the creative economy, conservation and monitoring of cultural heritage sites.
The site will continually be updated with new sites and functionality to enhance your experience.
Visit the EU 3D-Icons project here.
Muireann with Seamus Heaney (sitting far left) and friends, Feis Teamhra, Hill of Tara 2010
Image credit Carmel Diviney
This week one of the great campaigners for saving the Hill of Tara has died – Dr. Muireann ni Bhrolchain. I followed the campaign for years in the news and of course she and her fellow protestors (including the poet Seamus Heaney) failed in stopping the M3 motorway in Ireland, but they fought a good battle. Really I should put some harp music on for that was the symbol they used, but instead a speech by her here highlights what she stood for in the face of heritage destruction.
There is a full obituary to Muireann here and also another moving one by Ian Morse in yesterday’s Irish Times
From warrior to legend
As you pass into legend Muireann know you were peerless in your chosen field. Your legacy is your humanity and intellect and the passion by which you told your truths. You were a rarity because you inspired those seekers of knowledge with the simple contents of your heart and soul. You challenged those who failed to understand the true meaning of heritage, and in truth made them realise their own inadequacies. Rest in Peace within your new realm knowing the flame you ignited will never be extinguished. It was my honour and privilege to call you friend.
With love and respect
Ian Morse
The Inch bulla (locket) from County Down, Ireland
The locket above forms part of a display at the Ulster Museum, Northern Ireland. To accompany the display there will also be a series of talks and a BBC film, Landscape Mysteries: in search of Irish gold on Saturday, 31 January 2015 from 13:30-16:15. The talks and film will explore stories of treasure, jewellery and science, by highlighting gold objects from the Museum’s archaeological collection.
This event marks the redisplay and interpretation of two remarkable gold objects from the collection – the Corrard, torc (neck-ring) from County Fermanagh and the Inch bulla (locket) from County Down. The current debate surrounding the source of Irish prehistoric gold will be explored; illustrated talks will examine the torc, bulla and other recent discoveries and explain how science has offered new insights into the study of Irish Bronze Age gold.
More here.

Blackrock Dolmen (1987) a sculpture by Rowan Gillespie
Image credit: Sarah777  at en.wikipedia. Transferred to Commons by User: Gerardus using CommonsHelper. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Here at The Heritage Trust we’re very fond of a dolmen or two (as you may have noticed). So, it was a great pleasure to stumble on this sculpture by the Irish born sculptor Rowan Gillespie entitled Blackrock Dolmen which is now on show in Blackrock, Dublin, Ireland.

More of Rowan’s truly inspirational work here.

The Lia Fáil before being vandalised
Image credit Germán Póo-Caamaño. Source Wikimedia Commons

The Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) on the world famous Hill of Tara site in County Meath, Ireland, was badly vandalised last night. Some time between 5pm yesterday and 10am this morning two tins of thick gloss paint (one red and one green) were poured over the stone. Minister Jimmy Deenihan expressed his outrage, “I condemn in the strongest terms the damage that has been caused to one of our most iconic ancient monuments. This act of mindless vandalism, on one of our premier archaeological sites, is truly shameful.”

Two years ago the Lia Fáil was damaged when pieces were hacked out of it with an axe. More here.


 Ogam Stone
A 5th century Ogham Stone from Roovesmoor Rath Ring Fort, Coachford, West Cork, Ireland
Image: The Heritage Trust
An article in the Irish Examiner on Monday, 4 November 2013 by Marc O’ Sullivan, Arts Editor, begins with the statement that, “THE British are peculiar. Their desire to conquer the world has been matched only by their obsession with bringing bits of it home with them.”
The article goes on to say that –
Nowhere is this more evident than in the British Museum in London. Visiting it last week, my eye was drawn to a large slab of stone, about the height and width of a man, perched upon a formal plinth in the Great Court. It bore an inscription in ogham. On a plaque beneath, the crude translation of these elegant notches — read anti-clockwise — disclosed that the slab was originally raised in honour of ‘Vedac, son of Tob of the Sogain’. It was one of three 5th century ogham stones taken from Roovesmoor Rath — a ring fort outside Coachford, in West Cork — by the delightfully named General Augustus Henry Lane-Fox Pitt Rivers. He presented the group to the British Museum in 1866.
The Roovesmoor Rath ogham stones were among more than 20,000 items of archaeological interest Pitt Rivers collected over several decades, and many of them are now housed in the museum named after him in Oxford. I’m sure he meant well in presenting the ogham stones to the British Museum, and because of his largesse many thousands, if not millions, of visitors are now aware of the ogham script, the earliest written record of the Irish language. But the stones belong in a rath in West Cork, not in a cultural institution in London.
But do they? As with the Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles we’re faced with the same questions: should objects be returned to their place of origin or is it better that they are seen and appreciated in a wider international context?
Full Irish Examiner article here.
Irish poet and Nobel Prize winner Seamus Heaney at University College Dublin in 2009
Source Wikimedia Commons. Image credit Sean O’Connor
Qual e’ colui che somniando vede,
che dopo ‘l sogno la passione impressa
rimane, e l’altro a la mente non riede,
cotal son io…

Dante, Paradiso, Canto XXXIII

‘Like somebody who sees things when he’s dreaming
And after the dream lives with the aftermath
Of what he felt, no other trace remaining,

So I live now’, for what I saw departs
And is almost lost, although a distilled sweetness
Still drops from it into my inner heart.

It is the same with snow the sun releases,
The same as when in wind, the hurried leaves
Swirl round your ankles and the shaking hedges

That had flopped their catkin cuff-lace and green sleeves
Are sleet-whipped bare. Dawn light began stealing
Through the cold universe to County Meath,

Over weirs where the Boyne water, fulgent, darkling,
Turns its thick axle, over rick-sized stones
Millennia deep in their own unmoving

And unmoved alignment. And now the planet turns
Earth brow and templed earth, the crowd grows still
In the wired-off precinct of the burial mounds,

Flight 104 from New York audible
As it descends on schedule into Dublin,
Boyne Valley Centre Car Park already full,

Waiting for seedling light on roof and windscreen.
And as in illo tempore people marked
The king’s gold dagger when he plunged it in

To the hilt in unsown ground, to start the work
Of the world again, to speed the plough
And plant the riddled grain, we watch through murk

And overboiling cloud for the milted glow
Of sunrise, for an eastern dazzle
To send first light like share-shine in a furrow

Steadily deeper, farther available,
Creeping along the floor of the passage grave
To backstone and capstone, holding its candle

Under the rock-piled roof and the loam above.


Seamus Heaney

13 April 1939 – 30 August 2013


The  4,000-5,000 year-old Toormore Wedge Tomb in West Cork, Republic of Ireland
Image credit and © Michael Mitchell
Michael Mitchell, writing on The Modern Antiquarian recently about his visit to the Toormore Wedge Tomb in West Cork, Republic of Ireland, reports that –
I had really been looking forward to getting to this ancient site. Imagine my disappointment, when walking round the track, I was met with this beautiful wedge tomb being used as a dustbin storage unit! I didn’t even recognise it at first and thought that I was in the wrong place… alas no! Maybe the new owners don’t realise just what they actually have on their land… there certainly didn’t seem to be much respect for it!
Damage or inappropriate use of a monument in the Republic of Ireland can be reported to the National Monuments Service, by phoning 01 888 2000 or e-mailing them at the

Reconstruction of a crannog built approximately 5,000 years ago on Loch Tay. Source Wikimedia. Image credit Christine Westerback

BBC News Northern Ireland reports on the imminent destruction of a historical site in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. The site contains the remains of a crannog – an ancient type of loch dwelling found throughout Ireland and Scotland. The site represents one of the most important and interesting archaeological digs in Northern Ireland ever undertaken and will be revealed to the public during an open day tomorrow, 1 December. BBC News Northern Ireland reports that –

Workers at the crannog – an artificial island in a lake – in County Fermanagh have been making discoveries almost weekly since the dig began in June.

The Institute for Archaeologists (IfA) had raised concerns about “the apparently imminent destruction” of the historical site. They regarded the crannog as too fragile to preserve rather than excavate after the nearby engineering works for the road scheme drained water from the site. The new A32 Cherrymount link road near Enniskillen will eventually be built on top of the crannog.

Following a review of progress in July, archaeologists were given more time to recover the information from the site, which has turned out to be of international significance.

Full article and details of the open day here.


Entrance to Newgrange by Oscar Montelius (1843-1921) before its ‘restoration’ in the 1970s
 Monastic dwellings (clochán) on Skellig Michael. Source Wikimedia. Image credit Yeats
Writing in The Irish Times today Lorna Siggins reports that –
MINISTER FOR Heritage Jimmy Deenihan has moved to meet Unesco concerns about the management of Skellig Michael as a world heritage site by publishing a report on 24 years of excavations at the monastic complex. The archaeological stratigraphic report covers excavations between 1986 and 2010 on the island off the Kerry coast. It was published yesterday on foot of a recommendation in a Unesco report of 2007 which was critical of aspects of State management of the seventh-century monastic site.

Full article here.


One of the rock art stones uncovered by archaeologists at the Knowth tumulus. Image credit Kevin O’Brien, OPW

Writing in the Meath Chronicle, Paul Murphy reports that –

New and exciting archaeological finds have been made at the Knowth tumulus over the last few months, according to archaeologists working on the site. The passage tomb cemetery at Brú na Binne has produced some extraordinary discoveries over the decades ever since Professor George Eogan made his first tentative exploration in and around the site. A number of previously unknown large-scale monuments in the field lying immediately to the south-east of the large mound have recently come to light.

Full article here.


June 2022
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