Carrowmore, County Sligo (Irish: An Cheathrú Mhor , meaning large district) is one of the four great passage tomb complex in Ireland. It is located in the geographical center of Cúil wander Peninsula in County Sligo and 3 km west of Sligo town.

This is one of the largest (in terms of number of monuments) complex of megalithic tombs in Ireland and is also among the oldest use of the passage tombs, the earliest fallout around 3700 BC.


Finding Carrowmore: From the south (N4) for Collooney roundabout, exit Beach / Airport. Follow road Beach (R292). Take the right exit at the roundabout Ransboro, the center 1 km further on, on the right side. From the North (N15), cross Hughes Bridge in Sligo town, and at the 5th set of traffic lights after the bridge turn right into Church Hill. After 2 km take the left fork, signed Carrowmore. The center is located 1 km from here, to the left.

Placed on a small plateau at an altitude of between 36.5 and 59 meters above sea Carrowmore is the focus of a prehistoric ritual landscape dominated by Mount Knocknarea to the west with the big heap of Miosgán Médhbh on top.To the east is Carns Hill with two large mounds overlooking Lough Gill, and along the eastern border of the peninsula Ballygawley mountain has four passage tombs at their tops. [1]


30 monuments survive in Carrowmore today. There may have been more complex monuments in the beginning, but some fell victim to the quarrying and field clearance below 18, 19 and early 20’s. The complex is about one kilometer north-south and 600 meters east-west. Most of the sites are “satellite tombs” that surrounds the main monument, located at the height of the plateau, the cairn (now restored) called Listoghil.

Due to the grouping of monuments, some morphological characteristics presented by the graves, and the assemblage of materials in some of the monuments Carrowmore – somNewgrange, Loughcrew and Carrowkeel – classified by archaeologists as part of the Irish Passage Tomb Tradition. But in some respects Carrowmore places are atypical passage tombs. For example, none of the graves have lintel-covered tunnel-like passages that are a feature of most Irish passage graves, and only one place (Tomb 51, Listoghil) possesses a cairn.

Satellite Tombs

The tombs (in original condition) consisted of a central dolmen-like megalith with five upright orthostats carries a roughly conical capstone on top, enclosing a litenfemsidig tomb. These were each enclosed by a stone circle of 12 to 15 m in diameter. The stone circle containing 30 to 40 blocks, usually of gneiss, the material of choice for the tombs. Sometimes a second, inner circle stone blocks are also present. Entrance stones (or passage of stones, uncooked double rows of standing stones) extending from the central feature, showing the intended orientation of dolmens. They are not oriented to the directions but generally face towards the central area of the heap. In four such monuments are located in pairs.

Each monument was built on a small level platform of earth and stone that is one of the secrets of dolmens’ life as a well-executed stone seal surrounded the base of the upright stones, locking them in place. A satellite of graves, Tomb 27, has a cross-shaped passage grave plane, a feature seen in the chambers in the latter passage tombs or somNewgrange Carrowkeel. The roof – now gone – might have been of stone slabs or Corbelled.

Listoghil or Tomb 51

Listoghil built c. 3500 BC, is 34 meters in diameter and has a unique box-like chamber with the only megalithic technique so far available on Carrowmore.Three large boulders were found next to the central chamber and the heap;these might be the remains of a ruined megalithic construction preceded the heap. Since many of the satellite tombs face the central area, the site of the Tomb 51 seems to have been the focus around which the cemetery developed. This is the only grave to contain inhumationssnarare than crema (although crema is also present).

research History

Gabriel Beranger visited the site in 1779 and illustrated some of the monuments. [2] [3] These drawings are a valuable record of the state of Carrowmore at the time, shows some monuments now destroyed or damaged.

Early unregistered antiquarian excavation disturbed Carrowmore tombs, such as carried out by the local landlord Rodger Walker in the 19th century.Walker kept poor records of their activities, and it has been said that his excavations were more in line with the treasure hunt. Some of the material is recycled is now at Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England [4]

The sites were originally surveyed and numbered by George Petrie in 1837, while William Gregory Wood-Martin made the first recorded excavations in the 1880s.

Recent excavations

Excavations led by the Swedish archaeologist Göran Burenhult conducted during two seasonal promotions, 1977-1982 and 1994-1998. Ten graves were completely or partially excavated. Listoghil (Central Tomb, aka. Tomb 51) was excavated in 1996-8.

Recent excavations at the National Roads Authority for the route Inner Relief Road in Magheraboy near Sligo – three kilometers from Carrowmore – have shown that a causewayed höljeexisterade while Carrowmore.Causewayed enclosures are diagnostic of Neolithic activity in Europe. [5]

Excavation Results

The Carrowmore assemblage is typical for the Irish passage tomb tradition.It includes horn and bone pins with mushroom-shaped heads and stone or clay balls. The excavations also revealed large amounts of unopened clams and oysters, echoing the findings of shell middens along Cúil wander. Quartz fragments accompanied most funerals; quartz and quartzite clearly had ritual significance in the passage tomb tradition. Antler pin, seafood and ornaments from sperm whale teeth that are in the graves, may indicate that the earliest monuments built by people who followed the hunter-gatherer way of life; but the presence of small amounts of Carrowkeel ware Neolithic pottery at these sites are also indicative of the agricultural influence .

The chambers contain the remains of several people. Almost all the Neolithic burials at Carrowmore seems to have been cremations with inhumations only available on Listoghil. The graves were reused periodically funeral and disposal of artifacts of the people of the Bronze Age and Iron Age, a long time after the original construction.

The small Carrowmore dolmens seem to have been covered by heaps: even if such ideas were once popular among the antiquarians, the discovery of the “Settings” of stone and finds near the chambers of the Norsemen, Roman ochbronsåldern artifacts makes it unlikely – according Burenhult – such cairns ever existed.

Radiocarbon dates

Radiocarbon dates from the survey and excavation project in the 1970s, 80s and 90s by Professor Göran Burenhult generated some controversy among archaeologists. Burenhult interpreted the date to indicate that most of the monuments were erected and used between 4300 and 3500 BC, a hunter-gatherer community. [6] For example, a sample taken from the chamber of Carrowmore 3 (called Tomb 4 of Burenhult) was claimed to set a date of 5400 BC. This conclusion is not accepted by the wider international archaeological community. [7] But Croaghaun, a small mound in the Ox mountains a few kilometers south of Carrowmore, has also produced a date to go back as far as 5600 BC from samples of coal available in the central chamber, but what this really means is contested by digging [8] the earlier use of the sites, or the incorporation of older material preceded stone tombs can not be excluded.

Perhaps the primary outcome of Burenhult work is that it showed that Carrowmore passage tombs preceded weight passage tombs in the Boyne Valley, County Meath, such as Knowth and Newgrange. But his Mesolithic graves Hunters interpretation of the early Carrowmore date, first presented in 1982, received critical review of the quarter-century that followed. A source critical review of earlier work [9] and 25 new radiocarbon dates [10]have shown that Carrowmore monuments are more likely to have been built in the second quarter of the fourth millennium before Christ.

Although some of the samples from Burenhult excavations produced before the Neolithic date, the sample material was coal, which is sensitive to a number of methodological problems. But the last 25 AMS dates on bone and horn buttons by monuments [11] has contributed to the history of activities on Carrowmore and counterbalance earlier demand Mesolithic megalith construction of the complex. The use of satellite Carrowmore tombs have been found to have reached the era around 3750 BC to about 3000 BC. This data set is supported by palaeo environmental studies in neighboring lakes conducted by Stolze, O’Connell, Ghilardi and others, shows agricultural activities in conjunction with or prior to use monuments. [12]


Research on Carrowmore has changed the history of the development of the passage tomb tradition in Ireland. Data from this location overturned the theory once widespread in Irish archeology of tomb building spread from east to west across the country, and that the large complex tombs of Newgrange represented the beginning of the tradition, and the small simple tombs at Carrowmore final degenerate end of the tradition. Although we do not have reliable dates from many important Irish passage grave sites, it is possible to Carrowmore may represent the beginning of the passage tomb construction in Ireland.

It should be noted, however, that the construction of megalithic tombs is a widespread phenomenon, which extends from the Mediterranean Sea along the west coast of Europe to Scandinavia. If this is the spread of an ideology or humans has been debated. Perhaps both now seems likely, because the picture is now emerging from archeology is one of greater complexity than previous models had assumed. There are indications that in Ireland many of the main centers were in use at the same time. [13] The role of megaliths as monuments and cures of ceremony and celebration, as well as markers on the landscape is emphasized by archaeologists such as Richard Bradley.

The construction of large cairns Listoghil or Miosgán Médhbh on Knocknarea or Newgrange may represent a later phase of the megalith building larger scale and ambition than before the passage tombs. The area of Cúil wander peninsula and its hinterland is dotted with such graves, often on hilltops, which inspired Stefan Bergh to style it “Landscape of monuments”.

There has long been debate about how different types Neolithic monument – passage tombs, court tombs and portal dolmens – all of which occur in County Sligo – should be interpreted. Once thought to be an indication of different cultures or people, they are now known to have coexisted with each other, and therefore can represent different functions in a single community.Perhaps research into DNA or other techniques in the future will help to resolve these issues.

The Dump Crisis

Carrowmore was the subject of an extended legal battle in the 1980s when the Sligo County Council in 1983 tried to place a municipal landfill dumped at a quarry site about 100 yards from one part of the complex. Council’s decision was contested by five residents of the High Court in Dublin at the end of 1983 and the High Court ruled that the County Council could go ahead with their plans under certain conditions. The case was appealed to the Supreme Court which sentenced Council, 1989.

A notable feature of the judgment was that it was the first explicit legal recognition of the idea of an architectural landscape, extending the legal protection of a national monument to include the surrounding area. [14]

There was further controversy in 2001 with the reconstruction of the tomb 51st

Visitor Centre

1989-90 state bought about 25 acres, which stood a number of monuments and a small cottage. The cottage has been developed to be used as a basic visitor interpretive facility run by the Office of Public Works, this development was the first step in the development of Carrowmore archaeological complex of public access. Later, land acquisition means that most of the site is now under public ownership.

The small farm is close to the R292, about 2 km east of Ransboro crossroads.There is an exhibition, and from March to October provide both assistance and multilingual self-control options for Carrowmore megaliths. Admission is € 4.00 for adults, and there are discounts for seniors, groups, students, and families. Most of the graves may be reached from there. The center is open daily from 10:00 to 17:00 during the summer.


  1. Jump up ^ Bergh, Stefan (1995) Landscape of monuments. A study of the passage tombs in Cúil wander region, Co. Sligo, Ireland . Stockholm: National Heritage Archaeological Investigations ISBN 9171929452
  2. Jump up ^ Herity, Michael (1974) Irish passage graves Dublin. Irish University Press. pps 14-18. ISBN 0-7165-2167-9
  3. Jump up ^
  4. Jump up ^ Ireland, Aideen M. (2002) Roger Chambers Walker: A Sligo Antiquarian The Journal of Irish Archaeology Vol 11. pp. 147-187.
  5. Jump up ^ Danagher, Ed (2007) Monumental beginning: Archaeology of the N4 Sligo Inner Relief Road (NRA schedule Monograph 1) ISBN 978-1-905569-15-1
  6. Jump up ^ Burenhult Goran, (2005) Carrowmore: Tombs HuntersBritish Archaeology Issue 82.
  7. Jump ^ Cooney, G., Bayliss, A., Healy, F., Whittle, A., Danaher, E., Cagney, L, Mallory, J., Smyth, J., Kador, T. and O ‘ Sullivan, M., and T. O’Sullivan, M. (2011) “Chapter 12: Ireland. A. Whittle, F. Healy and A. Bayliss (ed) Collect time: dating to the early Neolithic enclosures in southern Britain and Ireland . Oxford: Oxbow Books
  8. Jump up ^ Bergh, Stefan (1995) Landscape of monuments. A study of the passage tombs in Cúil wander region, Co. Sligo, Ireland . Stockholm: National Heritage Archaeological Investigations ISBN 9171929452
  9. Jump up ^ Bergh, Stefan and Hensey, Robert (2013), the Neolithic dates from Carrowmore 1978-1998; A source critical
  10. Jump up ^ Bergh, Stefan and Hensey, Robert (2013) demolish the Chrolonogy of Carrowmore in Oxford Journal of Archaeology, 32 (4) pp 343-366 / abstract
  11. Jump up ^ Bergh, Stefan and Hensey, Robert (2013) demolish the Chrolology of Carrowmore Oxford Journal of Archaeology, Volume 32, Issue 4, pages 343-366, / abstract
  12. Jump up ^ O’Connell, M. Ghilardi, B. and Morrison, L. (2014). A 7000-year record of environmental change, including förtidspensione agricultural impact, based on lake sediments geochemistry and pollen data from County Sligo, western Ireland . in Quaternary Research, 81, 35-49
  13. Jump up ^ Hensey, Robert; Meehan, Mr; Dowd, Marion Moore, Sam. A century of archeology historic excavations and modern research at Carrowkeel Passage Tombs, County Sligo . Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy, 2014, p. 1-30
  14. Jump up ^