general interest the Bronze Age cemetery of Carrowkeel is equalled only
by the more famous ones of Brugh-na-Boinne and Lough Crew. None of its
sepulacral chambers approaches the regal proportions of New Grange, and
the rock-scribings that form so remarkable a feature of both the great
Meath monuments are entirely absent at Carrowkeel.
On the other hand,
the Carrowkeel group displays a greater variety of design: but the main
interest of its exploration lay in the fact that there was no evidence
that its cairns had been opened and ransacked long since, as in the other
places: most of them appeared to be intact, even when ruined, and they
gave an important insight into the burial customs of the Bronze Age people.
Assuming that the apparent absence of any disturbance means that at no
time subsequent to the period of interment have these chambers been robbed,
their contents seem to explode the popular idea that at least the more
elaborate of the Irish cairns contained along with human remains, golden
torcs or lunulae, or other contemporary treasure belonging to those who
were buried in these imposing mausoleums.
The monuments are grand, and
there may have been elaborate funeral rites, but a few trinkets alone
seem to have accompanied the sepulture.
R. L. Praeger - The Way That I Went, 1937
Cairn C is located on the northern end of the spur called Cairn Mor, on the
east side of the Bricklieve Gap. Although it is in a ruinous state the
cairn is visible from a long way off. A field wall has been built across
the top of the monument, using stones from the cairn, which accounts for its dilapidated state. This is quite a large cairn with a diameter of about 22 meters and, whilst the chamber has collapsed
and is filled with rubble, it obviously has a large cruciform chamber.
from the passage and remaining lintel, Cairn C is oriented across the destroyed cairn at Cairnaweelen on the north east spur of Keshcorran to the sites on Knocknashee.
This means that the sun will shine into Cairn C as it sets over the Ox
Mountains, possibly in early May and August; and that at certain times
in its cycle the full moon will also illuminate the interior.
This type of alignment is a common feature of Irish cairns: where the passage
of one monument is often oriented to another prominent cairn, as well
as the chosen rising or setting position of the sun and moon. There were
many fragments of quartz remaining around the entrance to the cairn until recent times.
Cairn C was known locally by the old people during Macalister's time as the
Leprechaun's House and, apart from F which was known as Cairn Mor is the only structure with a folk name of any kind at Carrowkeel.
Cairn C: This structure is much ruined, having evidently been despoiled of stones to provide material for the field-fence that runs alongside of it.
The chamber has apparently been wilfully destroyed, and the large stones of secondary interments, perhaps long subsequent which it was composed are thrown about in confusion. It appears, however, to have been of the cruciform type, of which G and K, described below, are the most conspicuous examples now surviving in the group.
But it is so injured that it is impossible to be certain about its original form. The Ordnance map, which omits nearly all the more conspicuous carns of the series, has recorded this comparatively insignificant example.
This carn has the distinction of being, so far as we could learn, the only structure of the group which has a distinctive name. This is English, "The Leprechaun's house." The name seems to indicate that it stood open, and fairly complete, so suggesting the idea of a house, till it was wrecked by the fence-builders.
Cairn D is immediately beside Cairn C to the south and is in a ruinous state;
indeed, it has almost been reclaimed by the bog. There is little left
of passage or chamber, with cairn stones strewn and scattered about and
chamber and passage stones displaced or missing.
One can only guess at
the alignment or type of chamber, such is the confusion of the remaining
stones. Macalister thought it may have contained an undifferentiated chamber
like Cairn B & H. Judging by the jumbled remains this also was a large cairn.
Cairn D: This carn is about 50 feet to the south of C. It is ruined to its foundations. There are traces of a kerb of large stones, standing on end, and of a passage in the south-east face, running in a north-westerly direction into the carn, and ending in a cist. The carn, accordingly, seems to have affinities with H; but, being so ruined, satisfactory measurements cannot be taken, nor can it be planned with certainty.