This excavated monument is about seven kilometers west of Killybegs. It stands at the head of a rocky, bog-grown valley and overlooks two other excavated court tombs Shalwy, 400 meters to the southwest, and Croaghbeg, a further 200 meters to the southwest. The last is approximately 300 meters from a small sandy beach on the north side of Donegal Bay, across which there is an extensive outlook to the north Connacht coastline.
Ten stones stood here, and others lay prostrate when Thomas Fagan (1845-8) visited the monument in 1847, but by the mid-20th century only six orthostats were visible (de Valera 1960). The excavation, conducted over two seasons in 1964 and 1965 (Flanagan and Flanagan 1966), revealed much of the ground plan of the monument. This showed an oval full court, at the southeast, leading to a gallery divided by jambs into two chambers. The structure stood in a cairn delimited by a revetment of drystone-walling. The plan published here is based on the excavators' plan (Flanagan and Flanagan 1966). The stones shown hatched thereon are those still extant.
Excavation showed that the cairn had been levelled, apparently deliberately, but the basal layer of its dry-wall revetment, in which outcrops of rock had been incorporated, was found to have survived largely intact. Some of the stones in this layer were extremely small, and none rose more than 0.2 meters above original ground level. A spread of cairn material beyond the revetment was, in the opinion of the excavators, due either to primary collapse or to the later levelling of the cairn.
The revetment delimited a cairn 19 meters long. The cairn was 10-11 meters wide for the greater part, but it narrowed to front and back, although the precise outline at the back was not apparent. On the basis of the configuration of the collapsed cairn material at the northwest comer, the excavators postulated that the cairn edge here would have been c. 1 meter high and composed of at least seven courses of dry-walling. The cairn, of local quartzite rubble, had been carefully built in places.
The excavators cite the example of the deliberate placing of large 'key-stones' immediately north of the front chamber of the gallery to anchor the cairn body. At other points, however, the cairn stones appear simply to have been dumped. Access to the court was via an entrance passage c. 2 meters long and 1.2 meters wide in the front of the cairn. Low stones formed the sides of the passage, which had been blocked with large stones (Flanagan and Flanagan 1966, 33). The oval court was some 6 meters long and 5 meters wide. An arc of five orthostats forms its inner end. Two of these, 0.55 meters apart, served as the entrance jambs to the gallery. The northern one is 0.6 meters high, and the southern one 1 meter high. Two courtstones flank the northern jamb. That adjoining the jamb is 0.9 meter high, and the other is 0.7 meters high. The single orthostat flanking the southern jamb is 0.8 meters high.
Beyond the arc of these five stones excavation revealed a number of fallen or broken courtstones that were generally smaller and, apparently, less securely bedded. One of these, still exposed on the south side of the court, is 0.3 meters high. Within the court, c. 1.2 meters inside the entrance passage, was a low set stone that the excavators considered to be a ritual feature. The excavation also revealed a shallow pit within the court and two small occurrences of charcoal.
Before the excavation only a single orthostat of the gallery, apart from the entrance jambs, was visible. This, the segmenting jamb on the north side of the gallery, is 0.75 meters high. On excavation the socket of its southern counterpart, the line of the north side of the front chamber and the socket of the backstone were uncovered. An overall gallery length of approximately 5 meters and a width of some 3 meters were thus indicated.
The north side of the front chamber was delineated by a built edge of cairn stones that the excavators believed abutted the missing sidestone(s). This chamber was some 2 meters long and was separated from the rear chamber by transversely set segmenting jambs. The position of the socket for the backstone indicated that the rear chamber would have been approximately 2.3 meters long. No packing-stones were found in this socket, which was approximately 1.5 meters long and 0.4 meters wide.
There was no trace of bone at the site, but a considerable array of stone implements, principally of flint, and some pottery sherds were found. The finds are, in the main, illustrated in the excavation report and again in Herity (1982; 1987). The numbers allotted to the finds in the excavation report are noted in parentheses below. The finds are also listed by Keeling (1988). A number of finds were recovered from the base of the cairn, all to the south of the area of the rear chamber.
Five were flint implements: a plano-convex knife, its tip worked to a point (E 50:53); the tip of a plano-convex knife (E 50:52); an end scraper of roughly oval shape (E 50:49); and two leaf-shaped arrowheads (E 50:40 and E 50:44). The last has since been identified as a plano-convex knife (Herity 1987, 199, no. 6). Also found in this area were part of the blade portion of an axe of polished mudstone (E 50:57) and a crystal of clear quartz (E 50:59). From a position 'fairly high' in the cairn and to the south of the front chamber the tip of a plano-convex flint knife (E 50:51) was recovered.
A number of flints were found at or just outside the cairn perimeter. A small leaf-shaped arrowhead, with part of its butt missing (E 50:42), and a hollow scraper (E 50:48) came from the original ground surface on the north side of the cairn. Part of a large worked flake (E 50:55) was found close to the kerb also on the north side of the cairn, and a small polygonal flint core (E 50:56) came from under collapsed cairn material to the north of the revetment.
A small leaf-shaped arrowhead (E 50:43), its tip missing, the central portion of a javelinhead (E 50:47) and an end scraper of oval outline (E 50:50) were all found amid collapsed cairn material at the south side of the monument. A worked flint (E 50:54) was found beside the southern edge of the kerb, and a leaf-shaped arrowhead (E 50:41) was found on the original ground surface beyond the collapsed cairn material at the south side of the monument.
In the court area a leaf-shaped chert arrowhead (E 50:45), its tip missing, and a lozenge-shaped flint arrowhead (E 50:46), its tip also missing, were both found in the blue clay that formed the floor of the court and gallery. The chert arrowhead was found just in front of the northern entrance jamb, and the other lay in front of the second courtstone, beyond the same jamb. A slender rod of stone (E 50:58) was found in the northwest corner of the court.
The majority of the finds from the gallery area were confined to the front chamber. From all over this chamber, apparently at floor level, the sherds of a large decorated bowl (E 50:21-37) were recovered. One large sherd was found lying at the base of the northern entrance jamb. Similar sherds (E 50:38), possibly of a different decorated bowl, were found in the forward area of the chamber. Three flint implements came from the floor of the chamber: a leaf-shaped arrowhead (E 50: 1), broken at its bulbar end; an intact leaf-shaped arrowhead (E 50:2) from behind the southern entrance jamb; and an end scraper (E 50:4), which appeared to have been subjected to heat, from the centre of the chamber. From the southern edge of the chamber came a flint core (E 50:8).
Three beads of schistose stone—a lozenge-shaped one (E 50:5) and two of sub-spheroid shape (E 50:6 and E 50:7)—were found on the floor just to the rear of the centre of the chamber. Herity (1982, 334) refers to the finding of a flint axehead in this chamber, but it is not mentioned in his later work on the finds from court tombs (Herity 1987, 198-9) or in the excavators' report. From the floor of the rear chamber came a leaf-shaped flint arrowhead (E 50:3). This was found near the socket of the southern segmenting jamb. In addition to the finds listed above, numerous pieces of worked flint, a piece of worked quartz and worked chert were recovered from the site.
This monument, one of the three excavated court tombs in the same rocky coastal valley, stands on a low knoll of rock between the other two (Dg. 12 and Dg. 40). A plan of the monument, made in 1952, has already been published (de Valera 1960). It then survived as substantial long cairn with a gallery, surmised to be of two chambers, opening from a court at its northeast end. Only two orthostats of the northern arm of the court were then visible. A doubled lintel marked the entrance to the gallery. Tiers of corbelling were visible along both sides of the gallery, and a large roofstone covered its inner half. The gallery was filled with stones almost to the tops of the sidestones. Fagan's (1845-8) account of the monument, written after his visit in 1847, shows it to have been in much the same condition then as in 1952.
The monument was excavated over four seasons from 1966 to 1969, and preliminary accounts have been published (Flanagan 1967; 1968; 1969; 1970). Excavation revealed a coffin-shaped cairn with a crescent-shaped facade and straight rear end. The sides and back of the cairn proved to be of dry-wall construction. A full court of pear-shaped outline was uncovered, and it was confirmed that the gallery was two chambered. Clearance of the court involved the removal of a great mass of collapsed cairn material, to a depth of 1 meter, in front of the entrance to the gallery. Finds from the court area included small flint fragments, as well as worked flakes of flint, chert and quartz.
Among the classifiable artifacts were two hollow scrapers, an end scraper, two plano-convex knives, one of which was broken in three pieces, a 'multiple scraper' and a leaf-shaped arrowhead, all of flint. Clearance of the gallery revealed well-defined occupation layers of later Iron Age date in the rear chamber. From these and the upper levels of the front chamber a series of later Iron Age objects, including pottery, metal work, a glass bead and a bone comb, were recovered. The floor level of the front chamber produced a series of Neolithic flint implements, including four end scrapers, ten hollow scrapers and an arrowhead, as well as 'one or two tiny fragments of Neolithic pottery' (Flanagan 1969, 19).
The Neolithic material recovered from the rear chamber included 'a fair quantity of featureless pottery' and a number of flint implements, among which were several hollow scrapers. Various types of animal bones were found at all levels of this chamber, and a razor-clam shell was found beneath the edge of the backstone. Several fragments of a shale bracelet were found to the north of the front of the monument. Quantities of small flint flakes and fragments were recovered from all around the cairn. The preliminary accounts of the excavation make no reference to the presence or otherwise of human remains.
The plan and sections published here were made in 1990. The cairn, 37 meters in overall length, appears to have achieved its greatest width, 14.5 meters, across the front of the court, from where it narrows to c. 10 meters at its crescent-shaped facade and approximately 7 meters at the rear. It reaches a maximum height of c. 2 meters around the inner end of the gallery. Part of the front of the cairn had been robbed before the excavation began (Flanagan 1967, 23). Its outline is now indicated by a slight drop in ground level.
The crescent-shaped facade, shown in pecked outline on the plan, is represented by a line of low stones left in place by the excavator. These are laid flat on the ground, and none exceeds 0.3 meters in height. A gap, 1.5 meters wide, in the facade marks the outer end of a passage, 5 meters long, that led to the court. At the north side of this and just inside the facade is a stone, 0.8 meters long, 0.35 meters thick and 0.35 meters high, laid flat on the ground. Its status is uncertain. Two stones opposite it, not shown on the plan, are quite loose. Between the facade and the court, a gully, up to 1.8 meters wide and 0.5 meters deep, crosses all but the northern extremity of the cairn. On excavation this was found to be filled with large slabs (Flanagan 1970, 21).
A substantial cairn mass now survives outside the inner half of both arms of the court and at either side of the gallery and extends 6-8 meters beyond its back. This is retained at its north and south sides by the dry-wall revetment exposed during the excavation. The stones in a line at both sides of the cairn, as shown on plan, are the lowest now exposed. They range from c. 0.3 meters to 1.3 meters long and from 0.2 meters to 0.9 meters high. A further stone, immediately west of those at the north, is now displaced. It measures 0.9 meters by 0.9 meters and is 0.6 meters high. As many as three layers of dry-walling survive at intervals along both sides, to a height of 0.9 meters. The western extremity of the cairn had been largely robbed, but traces of dry-walling, no longer apparent, were noted there during the excavation. A slight drop in ground level indicates the cairn perimeter in this area now.
The court is 8.5 meters long and attains its maximum width of 7.8 meters close to the front. Large orthostats define its inner half, but the stones along the outer half, which were uncovered during the excavation, are low and, except for one (hatched on plan), lie flat on the ground. A low spread of cairn remnant, 0.3 meters high, links the outer stone of each arm to the court entrance. Ten stones survive along the north arm of the court, and eight on the southern side. A single corbel survives on each arm. The corbels, not shown on plan, appear on the sectional drawings.
The innermost courtstone at the north, its base uncovered by the excavation, is 1.45 meters high, falling to 0.3 meters at its outer end. The second, its base also exposed, is 0.75 meters high. This and the outer end of the first are overlain by a corbel measuring 1.4 meters by at least 0.6 meters by 0.25 meters thick. The third courtstone, the tallest, is 1.9 meters high. It rises 1.1 meters above the top of the second and 1.3 meters above the fourth courtstone, which is 0.5 meters high. There is a gap between this and the next, the first of four contiguously placed blocks, all now slightly loose and none of which rises more than 0.25 meters clear of the ground.
Just 0.6 meters beyond the last of these are two others, also slightly loose, measuring 0.2 meters and 0.4 meters high. The innermost stone of the south arm of the court is a small well-set upright, 0.55 meters high. The second, which rises 0.95 meters above it, is 1.5 meters high. The third courtstone is 0.25 meters high. The outer end of this is overlain by what appears to be a corbel, which measures at least 1 meter by at least 0.6 meters by 0.25 meters thick. The fourth courtstone here is 0.95 meters high. The next three stones are all laid flat on the ground. None of these is more than 0.25 meters high. The outermost of the surviving stones of this arm of the court stands 0.55 meters high but is now slightly loose.
The gallery, some 6 meters long, has been excavated to the slightly uneven surface of the ground rock here, and the bases of the orthostats along its northern side have been exposed. Entrance to the gallery is between two well-matched, more or less flat-topped, transversely set entrance jambs, 0.85 meters apart. The northern one is 1.5 meters high, and the southern is 1.4 meters.
The lower of the two superimposed stones forming the lintel above the gallery entrance rests on these jambs. It is 3.1 meters long, 1.35 meters in greatest width and 0.65 meters thick and presents a rectangular profile when viewed from the court. There is a small pad-stone, 0.25 meters by 0.25 meters by 0.15 meters thick, between it and the top of the southern jamb and a number of smaller stones between it and the top of the northern jamb. The stone above this is 2.8 meters long, 1.05 meters in maximum width and 0.7 meters thick. When viewed from the front its top surface dips from a slight peak at mid-length to either end. There is a small pad-stone between it and the lower stone near their northern ends.
A displaced slab found at the front of the gallery during the excavation was considered by the excavator to have served as a 'blocking-slab', i.e. a doorstone, at the gallery entrance. This was a 'very large rectangular slab' of fairly uniform thickness and had, apparently, been trimmed to size.
This monument, like the two Bavan and Shalwy nearby in the same coastal valley, has been excavated. It is sited on a low but steep-sided rocky ridge and faces upslope to the head of the valley. Before excavation it was so obscured by collapsed cairn stones that it's precise design was unclear (de Valera 1960). The excavation was carried out over five seasons (1969-73), and preliminary accounts have been published (Flanagan 1970; 1971a; 1971b; 1972; 1973; 1974).
It consists of a long cairn at the northern end of which is a court leading to a two-chambered gallery. A lintel surmounts the gallery entrance, and there is another above the jambs separating the two chambers. Tiers of corbelling survive along the sides and back of the gallery. A subsidiary chamber opens into the outer end of the W side of the court. Considerable stretches of a dry-wall revetment were revealed along the sides of the cairn.
The west arm of the court and the cairn outside it were found to have been removed. Excavation showed that the surviving east arm of the court had been built on several layers of random rubble spread, apparently to secure a level surface. The finished implements among the finds recovered from the chambers were two heat-shattered flint plano-convex knives, a classic flint hollow scraper and a concave scraper.
The 1971 season, devoted to the excavation of the court and the determination of the shape and extent of the cairn, resulted in the recovery of a large number of flint flakelets and a small number of finished implements of flint, namely, two end scrapers, one hollow scraper and two knives. The plan and sections published here were made in 1990.
The cairn, as it now survives, is 36.5 meters long and narrows from 13.5 meters wide at the northern end to 10.5 meters at the southern. The northern end consists of a low bank of earth and stones that lacks any identifiable formal edge. Five stones at the outer face of this bank are shown on the plan. These are somewhat loose and of uncertain status. The largest measures 0.75 meters by 0.6 meters by 0.2 meters high. There is no trace of the expected entrance through the front of the cairn to the court, but a brief reference to such a feature suggests that it was apparent during the excavation (Flanagan 1973).
The remainder of the cairn is composed of a mass of stones rising from both ends to reach a maximum height of 2.3 meters at the back of the gallery. The rear of the cairn as portrayed on the plan represents the present limit of the cairn mass, but it is doubtful that this accords with the original outline, which, though badly eroded, 'was satisfactorily established' during the excavation (Flanagan 1973).
The dry-wall revetment exposed along the sides of the cairn survives to two layers in places, but for the most part only a single course remains. The stones of the lowest visible layer, some now somewhat displaced, are shown on the plan. These range from 0.15 meters to 1.5 meters long and from 0.15 meters to 1.1 meters high. Immediately south of the gap in the west side of the cairn are some large slabs at the cairn edge, but it is not clear whether these formed part of the revetment, and they are not shown on the plan. A stone just beyond the rear of the cairn mass may be displaced. It measures 0.8 meters by 0.75 meters by 0.3 meters.
Because of destruction in the court area the excavator encountered some difficulty in 'the determination of its inner facade' (Flanagan 1972). The preliminary accounts of the excavation do not contain any elaboration on this matter other than a description of the court as being of the full variety (Flanagan 1972; 1974, 9). The precise relationship of the court to the subsidiary chamber is also unclear, but if, like at two other Donegal court tombs (Dg. 56 and Dg. 95), the front of the subsidiary chamber lay on the court perimeter, a court length of approximately 10 meters would seem likely.
The east arm of the court is represented by ten stones. The edge of the cairn mass beside the gallery entrance seems to follow the line of the missing western arm. An original court width of at least 8m appears to be indicated. The outermost courtstone at the east, slightly inside the line of the others, is split vertically. It measures 0.7 meters by 0.1 meters by 0.4 meters high. The heights of the next seven are 0.75 meters, 0.65 meters, 0.75 meters, 1 meter, 0.6 meters, 0.8 meters and 1.05 meters. The next, the second from the gallery entrance, rises 0.45 meters above the top of the first. The base of this stone is exposed and is clearly seen to stand on the rubble fill, already mentioned, that was noted on this side of the ridge during the excavation. There is dry-wall filling in the slight gaps between it and the courtstones at either side, and a corbel, 0.5 meters by 0.9 meters and 0.5 meters in maximum thickness, rests on its sloping top.
The innermost courtstone is 0.6 meters high, but two superimposed blocks, so placed that all three present a vertical face, act to increase its effective height to c. 0.5 meters more than the last-described courtstone and the entrance jamb at its other side. The lower of the two superimposed blocks measures 0.7 meters by 0.4 meters by 0.45 meters high, and the upper 0.8 meters by 0.45 meters by 0.5 meters high. A large slab, 1.2 meters by 0.45 meters by 0.5 etersm thick, lying in an almost horizontal position on the last and on the cairn behind it may be a corbel. Just 1m beyond the outer end of the east arm of the court is a displaced slab, 1.25 meters by 1.2 meters by 0.45 meters thick.
The gallery is c. 5.5 meters long. Entry to it is between two well-matched, transversely set jambs of similar height set 0.8 meters apart at ground level. The eastern one is 1.2 meters high, and the western is 1.4 meters. Wedged between them is a sillstone now no longer set in the ground. This is 0.75 meters long, 0.08 meters thick and 0.45 meters high. The lintel above the entrance rests on the flat-topped jambs. This is a rectangular block of stone and measures 2.2 meters by 1.25 meters by 0.9 meters thick. There is a pad-stone 0.05 meters by 0.04 meters, between it and the inner end of the top of the western jamb. The segmenting jambs, transversely set, are well-matched, flat-topped stones. They stand inside the gallery walls and are 0.65 meters apart. The eastern one is 1.3 meters high, and the western is 1.25 meters high. A sillstone between them is 0.65 meters long, 0.08 meters thick and 0.4 meters high.
The lintel resting above the jambs, a rectangular block, measures 2.1 meters by 0.9 meters by 0.8 meters thick. There is a pad-stone between the top of the western jamb and the lintel. Beside the east end of the lintel and at the same height is a block of stone, 0.65 meters by 0.3 meters by 0.55 meters high, wedged between it and the gallery side. This rests on the middle orthostat on this side of the gallery and on a pad-stone, 0.15 meters by 0.08 meters by 0.08 meters thick, set on top of the segmenting jamb. Also helping to wedge this block in place is a stone, 0.25 meters by 0.2 meters by 0.1 meters thick, jammed between it and the top of the inner end of the first orthostat of the gallery.
The front chamber, measured from sill to sill, is 2.6 meters long and 2.7 meters wide; the rear chamber is 2.7 meters long and approximately 3 meters wide near the front, narrowing to 2.3 meters at the back. Three orthostats form each side of the gallery, the middle ones overlapping the adjacent jambs and serving as sidestones to both chambers, the same arrangement as at Shalwy.
The outermost orthostat at the west overlaps the inner end of the adjacent entrance jamb. It is 1.6 meters high. The middle orthostat on this side is 1.6 meters high. Immediately outside this and rising some 0.3 meters above its highest point is a slab, 1.2 meters long, 0.25 meters thick and 0.6 meters high. This flat-topped slab is positioned so as to raise the height of the gallery here and seems to be supported by the cairn mass alongside the gallery. The third orthostat on this side is 2 meters in maximum height. The outermost orthostat at the east side of the gallery rises from 1 meter high at the front to 1.75 meters at mid-length. The next one is 1.3 meters high. Mirroring the arrangement on the west side of the gallery, a slab immediately outside this orthostat rises 0.5 meters above it. This slab, its base hidden, leans inward slightly and is 1.4 meters long and 0.15 meters thick. The innermost orthostat on this side of the gallery is 1.7 meters high.
Laurence Flanagan's Obituary
Laurence Flanagan, who died on April 9th aged 68, was one of the most distinguished archaeologists in Ireland.
Saturday April 14 2001.
He was also an unconventional, colourful, flamboyant, bohemian character: a pints and poetry man, who enjoyed life to the full. He was at his best in the company of his own well-read, literary and artistic circle, who ate and drank in a number of hostelries in and around the Queen's University area of Belfast, close by the Ulster Museum, which was his power base for nearly 40 years.
The coup of his professional life was to secure and develop, for the Ulster Museum, an unrivalled collection of artefacts recovered by divers from the wrecks of the Spanish Armada vessels which foundered in stormy weather around the Irish coast in 1588 while fleeing after an unsuccessful attempt to invade England. Most of the treasures recovered from the wrecks, especially from the Girona, are now on display in Belfast. And, thanks to his enthusiasm for the project, the Irish Government also donated material to the collection.
Laurence Flanagan was born in Dublin in March 1933. His father a Protestant, and his mother, a Catholic, later moved to Belfast, where he was sent to Methodist College. From there he went to Balliol College, Oxford to read classics. After leaving university with a degree in the greats, he applied to the Museum, Library and Arts Committee of the Belfast Corporation for a job at the city's, later Ulster, museum.
In the days when the right religion was as important as a suitable qualification to gain employment, the councillors were unable to glean his background from the information he supplied and the answers he gave them. Eventually they were forced to ask if he was a regular church attender. His continued ambiguity was such that they gave him the job anyway and he started working in the museum as an assistant in 1955.
He became keeper of antiquities in 1958 and remained there until 1988, when he took early retirement. During his time at the museum, he emerged as an expert and enthusiastic archaeologist, participating in many digs, interpreting the findings and artefacts with skill and intellect and writing up the results in a lengthy catalogue of scholarly contributions to learned journals.
After his retirement he turned to writing and published a number of books, mainly of Irish interest, including Ancient Ireland, Life before the Celts; Irish Wrecks and the Spanish Armada; Favourite Irish Names for Children and the Chronicle of Irish Saints. His Directory of Irish Archaeology is a comprehensive, standard and widely consulted authoritative source on the subject.
Drawing on the work of his first wife, Deirdre (nee Morton), herself a distinguished lecturer at Queen's, who pre-deceased him, he also compiled a Dictionary of Irish Names, which was published in their joint names. He later married Eileen (nee O'Kane), who came from a Tyrone farming family but when she too predeceased him much of the sparkle went out of his life and the once gregarious man about town became withdrawn and reclusive. He is survived by three grown-up daughters from his first marriage: Grainne, Dunla and Laoise.
Laurence Flanagan: born 1933, died, April 2001. Source.