Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery | Attraction Guides | History Hit

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery

The Borough District of Sligo, County Sligo, Ireland

Sarah Roller

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Brian Maudsley / Shutterstock.

About Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery is a prehistoric burial site in Sligo, Ireland, where archaeologists have found sixty graves believed to predate Egypt’s pyramids.

History of Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery

The graves are Carrowmore are thought to date back to around 3500BC: thirty tombs have been discovered, which makes Carrowmore the largest and oldest of Ireland’s megalithic complexes. The site is arranged around a cairn, Listoghil, in the centre, with the other tombs as ‘satellite tombs’ around this one.

Listoghil (also sometimes known as Tomb 51) is the only tomb where megalithic art and burials have been found – cremations are far more common. The satellite tombs tend to follow a similar layout – a central megalith surrounded by 5 upright stones, with a capstone on top enclosing a burial chamber, all facing towards the central cairn. Unlike other megalithic tombs, these were not passage tombs.

The monuments have lasted so well in large parts because of their foundations: they were packed into a small platform of earth and stone, locking them in place. The wider landscape of the Cuil Iorra peninsula contains an assortment of neolithic monuments.

Carrowmore was surveyed in the 1830s, and first exacavated in the 1880s. Modern exacavations were carried out in the 1970s, 80s and 90s by Swiss archaeologist Göran Burenhult to further understand the site.

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery today

Carrowmore is run by Heritage Ireland today – the site is under public ownership and there’s now a permanent exhibition space housed in an old cottage on the site, which is extremely useful. All 30 of the tombs are on display to the public.

You can pick up self-guided tour leaflets in a variety of languages there: guided tours also run relatively regularly. The terrain can be quite uneven underfoot, and the site is exposed so wrap up warm (and bring waterproofs!) and wear sturdy shoes.

Getting to Carrowmore

Carrowmore is about 5km south west of the town of Sligo, in west Ireland: it’s most easily accessed by the R292, and is about 2km east of the Ransboro crossroads. Public transport is extremely limited in this part of Ireland, so you’re best off walking if you don’t have a car. It should take around an hour, and if you’re lucky, a passing local might take pity and take you some of the way.

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