Publication: Excavation at the Neolithic Carrowmore Passage Tomb Complex

The results of an excavation at the Carrowmore passage tomb complex were published in the Volume XXX of the Journal of Irish Archaeology. I’ve been carrying out geophysical surveys across the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery since 2011 and in 2019, Dr Marion Dowd and I began excavating one of the most enigmatic sites in the Neolithic complex.

The fieldwork comprised a training and research excavation at a site officially classified in the Sites and Monuments Record as a barrow (SL014-209041-). The training was for first year students on the BSc/BSc(Hons)/HCert in Applied Archaeology at IT Sligo. The excavation took place over two weeks in May/June 2019, and was the first excavation to occur at the complex in more than twenty years.

One 18m x 2m trench was opened on the eastern side of the monument where the banks and ditches are best preserved. The trench captured a portion of the central area, and sections of the three ditches and two banks. The outermost enclosing elements were previously only visible in an earth resistance survey carried out by myself and IT Sligo students in 2016. A large lithic assemblage was analysed by Cian Hogan.

Key findings in the publication:

  • The monument comprises a central circular depression surrounded by a band of multiple layers of stones and gravel that in turn was enclosed by a wide but shallow ditch.
  • An assemblage of 35 lithics, predominantly chert, was recovered, representing a series of events in the Neolithic and possibly into the Bronze Age.
  • Optically stimulated luminescence returned a Neolithic date for the monument.
  • The site is central to and contemporaneous with the megalithic tombs at Carrowmore and likely fulfilled a ceremonial function.

For more information see our publication:

Dowd, M., Bonsall, J. and Hogan, C. 2021. ‘Excavation of a Neolithic monument at the heart of the Carrowmore passage tomb complex, Co. Sligo’. Journal of Irish Archaeology, Volume XXX, Wordwell, Dublin, pp1-24.

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