The Poulnabrone Dolmen, County Clare, Ireland. Classified as a portal tomb, this structure dates to the Neolithic period, radiocarbon dates place its use between 3,800 - 3,600 BCE.
During excavations the skeletal remains of up to 22 prehistoric individual were found, which included both adults and children, as well as one newborn. Extensive specialist analysis has been done on these remains, offering us a rare insight into the lives of these Neolithic people.
[…] A variety of artefacts, presumably representing grave goods, were also recovered from the burial chamber. These included a polished stone axe, two stone beads, a decorated bone pendant, a fragment of a mushroom-headed bone pin, two quartz crystals, several sherds of coarse pottery, three chert arrowheads and three chert/flint scrapers.
The burial evidence from Poulnabrone has given us rare glimpse into the lives of our early ancestors. It appears that they endured a relatively tough existence, that involved hard physical labour, childhood illnesses, occasional violent attacks and early deaths. Although only a small section of the community were deemed worthy of burial in the tomb, there is little evidence for gender or age discrimination, with both male and female remains present as well as young and old. Prior to interment their bones appear to have been stored elsewhere and this may indicate that they were venerated as ancestor relics. Why certain individuals were chosen to be buried in the seemingly exalted location of a megalithic tomb, however, remains a mystery.
Photo courtesy of & taken by Nicolas Raymond.
Dun Aengus (Dún Aonghasa), Inishmore, Ireland
Dun Aengus is the most famous of several prehistoric forts on the Aran Islands of County Galway, Ireland. It is on Inishmore, at the edge of an 100 meter high cliff. The first construction goes back to 1100 BC, when the first enclosure was erected by piling rubble against large upright stones. Around 500 BC, the triple wall defenses were probably built along the western side of fort. Its name, meaning “Fort of Aonghas”, refers to the pre-Christian god of the same name described in Irish mythology, or the mythical king, Aonghus mac Úmhór.
The Irish Cyclops Balor was a one-eyed god of death, and the most formidable of the Fomorii––you remember them, right? The violent and monstrous sea gods who ruled Ireland before the arrival of the Tuatha De Danann, the “nicer” gods and goddesses.
So dreadful was the one eye of Balor that he destroyed whoever he looked upon, and his eyelid had to be levered up by four servants. It was prophesied that he would be slain by his own grandson, as is often the case with gods and their inconvenient yet inexorable prophecies. He stowed his daughter Ethlinn in a crystal tower on Tory Island, but a determined young god named Cian made it up to provide her with some bonafide lovin’.
Balor found out that his daughter had popped out three sons, and ordered them drowned. The servants wrapped the boys up in a sheet, but on the way to the whirlpool, one of the boys fell out, unnoticed. That boy was Lugh, the sun-god-to-be. He was taken to Manannan Mac Lir, the god of the sea, and fostered. Once he was grown, Mac Lir took him to a major battle against the Fomorii. Balor wreaked havoc on the Tuatha De Danann with his lethal gaze, but eventually Lugh crept near him with a magic slingshot, taking advantage of Balor’s weariness in a moment when his eye was closed. As soon as that ugly eyeball opened up again, Lugh fired a shot into it, and it hit so hard that Balor’s eye was blown backward through his head, and all the Fomorii behind him suffered the power of its stare. The Fomorii, in losing this battle, were driven from Ireland forever.
An oldie from the archives.