Irish Wedge Tombs
'In Ireland this world and the world we go to after death are not far apart.'
W. B. YEATS.
Wedges are the fourth type of megalithic monument commonly found in Ireland, and are generally thought to be the youngest of our megalithic tombs, dating from the cusp of the neolithic and the Bronze age.
Wedge tombs are large stone boxes with a sloping roof slab. They are somewhat similar in appearance to portal dolmens. Like the other kinds of monuments, they would have originally been covered with a cairn of stones.
There are around 400 wedge tombs in Ireland; they are often found close to other monument types. The largest concentrations of wedge monuments are found in the Burren in County Clare, where there are many fine examples in the Burren National Park at Parknabinne. There are many more examples to be found in the southwest region of Cork and Kerry.
The Drumcliffe Wedge
This fine monument was first shown on the 1940-41 edition of the OS 6-inch map. It is situated some 300 meters to the West of Drumcliff and stands in a field of damp pasture about 50 meters to the North of the Drumcliff River.
The monument consists of a long gallery flanked at either side by outer-walling. This is best preserved at the North where it is linked to the gallery by two facade-stones. There is a fallen facade stone at the opposite side but the only outer wall stones at the South are three orthostats towards the East end of the structure.
A field fence incorporates two of these and crosses the back of the gallery. There are no traces of cairn around the structure but there is a considerable amount of fill in the front part of the gallery and also between the gallery and the first five outer-wall stones to the north.
The gallery is 11 meters in length. It is 1·80 meters wide at the front, increases to 2 meters towards the middle and is 1·60 meters wide at the back. The stone at the west end of the north side is largely concealed. It is at least 70cm long and is 80cm high. The other nine orthostats here are from 60cm to 1·10 meters in length and 25cm to 60cm in thickness. They decrease in height from 80cm at the west to 25cm at the east.
The largely concealed stone at the west end of the opposite side is at least 90cm long and is 90cm high. The status of the stone immediately outside this is uncertain. It is 70cm long, 20cm thick and 1·10m high. The other eight side-stones here are 50cm to 1·20m in length and 15cm to 40cm in thickness. Their heights vary from 20cm to 70cm but a general decrease in height from west to East is not apparent.
The gallery backstone does not achieve full closure and there is a gap of 35cm between it and the north side-wall. It measures l·l0 meters by 30cm by 20cm high. A roofstone, 2·40 meters by 1·20 meters by 40cm thick, lies across the entrance to the gallery and another towards the East end measures 2·20 meters by 1·70 meters by 40cm thick. The edge of what seems to be a third roof stone protrudes from the fill occupying the front end of the gallery.
There is a gap of 1·20 meters in the north line of outer-walling. The eight stones here are 80cm to 1·50m in length, 25cm to 40cm in thickness and 35cm to 1 meter in height. The three surviving outer-wall stones at the south are 60cm to 80cm in length, 30cm thick, and 30cm to 50cm in height.
The fallen facade stone measures 1·40 meters by 70cm and if erect would be about 1·30 meters high. The facade stone on the opposite side of the entrance is split down its long axis. It measures 1· 30 meters by 50cm by Im high and the orthostat linking this to the outer wall measures 1 ·40m by 40cm by 90cm high.
The monument is in much the same condition as it was in Wood-Martin's time though his plan does show a line of four contiguous outer-wall stones adjoining the south facade stone.
Wood-Martin 1887-8. 141-4; Wood-Martin 1888, 143-6: Borlase 1897, 130-1, Carbury No. 12: RIA MS 3.C.27, No. 17 (Sketch and ground plan at 1/120); BLL Stowe Ms 1024, fol. 158.