Goran Burenhult (centre), the chief excavator leads a tour at Circle 27, Carrowmore 
during the Stones and Bones conference in 2002.
Goran Burenhult (centre), the chief excavator leads a tour at Circle 27, Carrowmore during the Stones and Bones conference in 2002.

Excavations:- Wood-Martin

No. 27. Situated to the southwest of 26 (dolmen-circle, or chambered cairn). "This is a double circle, and one of the finest of the series. The stones of the inner circle are small, and nearly covered by the clay. Those of the outer one are of large size, averaging 6 feet in height, and 20 feet in circumference. The diameter of the circle is 60 feet.

The number of stones in the circle is thirty-seven. The pillar-stones of the cromleac, sixteen in number, remain; but the covering-stone or stones - for it is probable there were more than one - have been destroyed." - Petrie.

There is a plan of this circle in Fergusson's "Rude Stone Monuments," but it is inaccurate. The "cromleac" of which Petrie speaks, turned out, on examination by Col. Wood-Martin, to be a cruciform arrangement of cists, or chambers, similar in ground-plan to - though ruder, apparently, in structure than - that found in several cairns. This design which is found in the cairns at Loughcrew in Meath, and at Achill in Mayo, and Moytirra in Sligo, reached its consummation in New Grange. It is found also at Dowth, and at Maes Howe in Orkney, and, with modifications, in other cairns in Orkney, as well as in those of Caithness and Argyllshire. The monument, however, which resembled most closely the Carrowmore example now under consideration, was, in its pristine condition, "Wayland Smith's Cave," in the County of Berkshire, a plan of the chambers of which will be found in the Norwich volume of the "Congress of Anthropology and Prehistorical Archaeology," 1868, p. 46.

The idea present to the mind of the builder of that monument must have been identical with that which dictated the design of the Carrowmore one. The custom, and presumably the people who erected then both, was clearly one and the same, and the presence of the form in the apparently more ancient Carrowmore group, forms a link between them in the chain of the megalithic series which it is important to note. Cruciform chambers, as we shall see, are not unknown to German Archaeologists.

Stefan Bergh's plan of Carrowmore 27.
Stefan Bergh's plan of Carrowmore 27.

Colonel Wood-Martin gives (from the pencil of Mr. James Graves) a sketch and ground plan of the cist which formed the west arm of the cruciform arrangement. "It was lined around - nearly to the surface of the ground - with narrow limestone slabs, and was flagged with a piece of calpy limestone, underneath which lay the undisturbed till. It may be considered a typical chamber." The covering-stone is wanting in this and all the other cists, and I do not feel sure that the roof was not completed in each case by overlapping thin flat stones. Had this been the case, however, one would have thought they would have been found in the chamber, but such a circumstance is not recorded. In the west cist were found: —

In the north cist (which would represent the shaft of the cross, and the axis of which lay rather northwest and southeast than north and south.) were found: —

In the east cist were found: —

In the central cist were found: -

In the south (or south-east) cist were found:-—

Circle  27 during excavations by the Swedish team.
Circle 27 during excavations by the Swedish team. Photo © G. Burenhult.
Circle  27 at Carrowmore.
Circle 27 with Knocknarea and Queen Maeve's Cairn.