Burials at Carrowmore
A primary function of the monuments at Carrowmore was to house the cremated remains of certain individuals from the neolithic farming community. All excavated monuments at Carrowmore reported evidence of cremated human bone, despite the activities of Roger Walker who cleared out many of the burial chambers between 1825 and 1850. All of the early reports of digs and land clearance at Carrowmore refer to burials and 'calcified' human remains.
The cremated remains were generally found buried in the chambers, and were sometimes mixed with quantities of animal bone, broken quartz and sea-shells. Many of the finds from Carrowmore—pottery, deer antler pins and pendants—are heat damaged, and so may have been personal items included in the cremation pyres.
The type of items found at Carrowmore are used to classify the monuments as passage graves: Carrowkeel ware, a type of coarse pottery; pins or wands carved from the antler of red deer; stone or clay beads and pendants and fragments of white quartz.
The largest amount of cremated human remains was found in the chamber of Carrowmore 3, where more than thirty-two kilograms of cremated bone is recorded as having been found. This may represent as many as fifty individuals.
Two small secondary cists (small stone chambers) outside the main chamber show that the chamber was never covered by a cairn. These cists were missed by Walker and remained undisturbed until the Swedish excavations.
The Kissing Stone had scatters of cremated remains found both within and outside the chamber. Much of the remains were spread about in secondary positions after the earlier diggings of Roger Walker in the 1840's and Wood-Martin in the 1880's.
Circle 26, excavated in 1978, proved to have very few neolithic remains, having been re-used in the Bronze and Iron age. About 1.5 kilograms of cerials—barley, rye and oats—were found, and have been dated to 530 BC. A young woman aged around twenty was buried along with a foetus around 90 AD.
Burenhult, the leader of the excavation team suggested that the individual monuments may have been used by different families, much the same way that a family will take a plot or communal grave in a cemetary today. However, new studies on the burials at Carrowkeel to the south of Carrowmore seem to indicate that this is not the case.
The reports listed with each site are taken from Borlase's Dolmens of Ireland, which lists the finds from Wood-Martin's excavations, are given on individual monument pages. The human remains from Carrowmore, along with the majority of the finds, are kept in the National museum, Kildare St, Dublin.