Megalithic Sites, Deerpark/Magheraghanrush

Many Irish court tombs were given the name Giant’s Grave due to the folk belief that the long gallery held the remains of a giant. This particular court tomb is a large and imposing monument which is considered by many as being one of the best examples of its type in Ireland. It occupies a commanding position on the summit of a limestone ridge overlooking Lough Gill and is surrounded by dramatic limestone mountain scenery, which was hidden by a forestry plantation until relatively recently.

A central court tomb is a variant of a type of megalithic tomb known as court tombs, which began to be built early during the Neolithic period c.3700-3550 BC., a few centuries after the introduction of farming to Ireland. These remarkable feats of architecture were a monumental expression of the social complexity of the period. Although communal burial practices (mainly in the form of cremation) were carried out in these monuments, they appear to have functioned as places for ritual and religious activity. There are 61 court tombs in Sligo out of 412 nationally. In a central court the court occupies a central area with galleries leading off it.

At Deerpark there are three galleries; a pair of twin galleries at the east end and a single gallery at the opposite end of the central court area to the west, Originally there were three lintels over the entrances into the galleries and two of these lintel stones fell in the 1920s and now lie next to the entrances. The existing lintel still survives but is badly cracked. All the elements of the monument combine together to give a total length of 30m. An entrance passage on the south side links the court area to the edge of the remaining kerb stones. Each of the three galleries are divided into two burial chambers by jamb stones. The chambers originally were covered by low corbelled roofs and the whole structure apart from the court would have been covered in a cairn, the edges of which were delimited by large kerbstones.

The site was unscientifically excavated in the late 19th century by W.G. Wood-Martin who uncovered human and animal bones, mainly those of deer, were found. The monument is located in the former deer park of the Wynne family of Hazelwood House and was a large walled area used to house the deer herd belonging to the Estate. The townland name is Magheraghanrush, Machaire an Ros, the plain of the wood, while the monument’s name in Gaelic is Leacht Con Mhic an Ruis (the grave of Con son of Ruis).

Further information, including diagrams, is annexed below.


SL015-053 Magheranrush/Deer Park Wedge tomb (NMI)


SL015-052 Magheranrush/Deer Park Cashel and souterrain, Co. Sligo (NMI)


SL015-050 Magheranrush/ Deer Park Court tomb, Co. Sligo (NMI)


ARCHAEOLOGY TOUR DEERPARK, CALRY CO. SLIGO – HERITAGE WEEK 2018

Court tomb

Many Irish court tombs were given the name Giant’s Grave due to the folk belief that the long gallery held the remains of a giant. This particular court tomb is a large and imposing monument which is considered by many as being one of the best examples of its type in Ireland. It occupies a commanding position on the summit of a limestone ridge overlooking Lough Gill and is surrounded by dramatic limestone mountain scenery, which was hidden by a forestry plantation until relatively recently. A central court tomb is a variant of a type of megalithic tomb known as court tombs, which began to be built early during the Neolithic period c.3700-3550 BC., a few centuries after the introduction of farming to Ireland. These remarkable feats of architecture were a monumental expression of the social complexity of the period. Although communal burial practices (mainly in the form of cremation) were carried out in these monuments, they appear to have functioned as places for ritual and religious activity. There are 61 court tombs in Sligo out of 412 nationally. In a central court the court occupies a central area with galleries leading off it. At Deerpark there are three galleries; a pair of twin galleries at the east end and a single gallery at the opposite end of the central court area to the west, Originally there were three lintels over the entrances into the galleries and two of these lintel stones fell in the 1920s and now lie next to the entrances. The existing lintel still survives but is badly cracked. All the elements of the monument combine together to give a total length of 30m. An entrance passage on the south side links the court area to the edge of the remaining kerb stones. Each of the three galleries are divided into two burial chambers by jamb stones. The chambers originally were covered by low corbelled roofs and the whole structure apart from the court would have been covered in a cairn, the edges of which were delimited by large kerbstones. The site was unscientifically excavated in the late 19th century which uncovered human and animal bones, and flint tools. The human and animal (mainly deer, along with a possible horse) remains were unburnt and there was evidence of an elderly man and children The monument is located in the former parklands of the Wynne family of Hazelwood House and was a large walled area said to have been used to house the deer herd of the Estate. The townland name is Magheraghanrush, Machaire an Ros, the plain of the wood, while the monument’s name in Gaelic is Leacht Con Mhic an Ruis (the grave of Con son of Ruis).

Cashel

Ringforts and their stone counterparts, cashels, constitute the most common of all monuments in the Irish landscape with numbers in excess of fifty thousand with an unknown considerable number having being destroyed in the past for land improvement. They consist of circular enclosures 25m to 60m in diameter bounded by earthen banks or stonewalls and external ditches. They occur in all areas throughout the country with nearly every townland having one or more example. They are commonly believed to have been enclosed farmsteads with internal structures for habitation and likely held livestock as well. Larger ringforts are known with two or three concentric banks and ditches (bi and trivallate). Deerpark has three banks but the outer one may not be original, and has a diameter of c.23m. These are generally interpreted as higher status settlements. A feature associated with ringforts is the souterrain . These are man-made underground passages and have two suggested functions: (i) they acted as a place of refuge and (ii) utilised for storage. It is argued that the vast majority of ringforts were constructed between 600ad and 900ad. In the past it has been argued that the construction of ringforts may date to the Iron Age or even Bronze Age but this is unlikely, and more recently others have been arguing that the use and to a lesser extent the construction of ringforts may extend into the High and Late Medieval Periods, particularly in areas under Gaelic control throughout those periods. Deer Park is one of 348 listed cashels and 443 souterrains recorded in Co. Sligo.

Wedge tomb

Wedge tombs were first built in the Bronze Age c.2400 BC and continued to be built up to 1700BC. They consist of a rectangular main chamber or gallery. Most have a wider entrance often towards the west. A wedge shaped kerb often occurs that was wider at the front and narrower to the rear. Capstones or ‘lintels’ roofed the chamber and the structure was covered in a cairn. There are 35 in Co. Sligo out of 523. This example was excavated in the C19th when partial remains of three unburnt individuals as well as a child were identified along with deer bone and sea shells.

Contributor: Sam Moore

References:

Formaoil na Fiann: Hunting Preserves and Assembly Places in Gaelic Ireland Author(s): Elizabeth Fitzpatrick

Finn’s Seat: topographies of power and royal marchlands of Gaelic polities in medieval Ireland. Elizabeth FitzPatrick and Ronan Hennessy

Landscape History: Journal of the Society for Landscape Studies 38:2 (2017).

Ancient Forts in County Sligo; Author(s): Seaton F. Milligan

Source: The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Fifth Series, Vol. 1, No. 7 (3rd Quarter, 1891), pp. 574-582

Survey of the Megalithic Tombs of Ireland; Sean O’Nuallain Vol V, County Sligo

Colour photos courtesy of Martin Byrne at  www.carrowkeel.com