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The Burren: Archaeology

Wedge-Shaped Gallery Graves

Forts of the Burren

Early Churches of the Burren

The first people to arrive in the Burren were hunters and fishermen who in time moved into animal husbandry with the keeping of cattle, sheep and goats. From the results of research and excavations a good deal of information has been gleaned on the pattern of life and death of these early settlers.

Map of the Burren Neighbourhood
Click on the map above for a larger version

Our knowledge of the Neolithic Era from 3,000 BC onwards is considerable, owing to durable evidence in the form of numerous monuments and forts. The tombs of these first farmers, described as 'megalithic', which means 'great stones', are impressive monuments over the graves of their dead.

By and large the most outstanding field monument from that period is the portal dolmen at Poulnabrone. It dates from c.3600 BC and faces north-north-east, tapering to the south-south-west. The capstone measures 12 ft by 7 ft and rests lightly on the sidestones, it has its heavier end towards the front of the tomb where two tall portal stones give it a monumental appearance.

Poulnabrone Portal Dolmen
Poulnabrone Portal Dolmen (Photo: C. Krieger)

As it stands now, it is a mere skeleton of its former self. It may have originally been covered by a cairn (loose stones and soil) which would have tapered to the back. A recent excavation revealed the burial system was by disarticulation and inhumation. The finds included unburnt disarticulated remains of between 16 and 22 adults also 6 juveniles. It was estimated on the meagre demographic data that the majority of the adults died before reaching the age of thirty with the exception of one that reached forty.

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