MEGALITHIC MONUMENTS
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ALTAR WEDGE TOMB
Built from local sandstone slabs, this Wedge Tomb, also known as 'Tuama Dingeach
na hAltora', is one of a dozen in the area of the Mizen Head, 'Carn Ui Neid', at the
western extremity of the peninsula formerly known as the Ivagha Peninsula or 'Uibh
Eachach'. It is located on a small level area 30m from the rocky shoreline on the NE
edge of Toormore Bay, just off the R592 from Toormore, 'An Tuar Mor' to Skull, 'An
Scoil' and is marked 'Cromlech' on both the OSI & Historic maps. It was erected at the
end of the late Neolithic - early Bronze Age, around 2,500 BC, with its entrance aligned
ENE - WSW, seemingly with the distant Mizen Peak and it has been suggested that this
was an orientation towards the setting sun at Samhain in early November. The tomb
consists of a fairly well-preserved, simple trapezoidal orthostatic gallery 3.42m in
length, represented by three stones on each side (with those on the northern side
leaning inwards), that is 1.9m in width at west end & 1.25m in width at east end. A
roof-stone, 2.7m in length, is still in position above the eastern end of the gallery and a
second roof-stone, 2.6m in length, rests against the westerly stones at either side of the
gallery. It was excavated in 1989 by Dr. William O'Brien and Madeline Duggan. These
excavations produced cremated bone of a human adult found near the entrance, a
single un-burnt tooth, some charcoal from two pits near the rear of the chamber and
some deposits of shellfish such as periwinkles and limpets. Worked flint, including
scrapers, were found outside chamber. The cremated remains were radiocarbon dated
to about 2,000 BC while those from the pits in the chamber floor returned dates around
1,200 BC, the middle Bronze Age. Later a pit was dug and filled in around 200 AD. A
socket for a back-stone and a low kerb feature were also uncovered during excavations.
No clear evidence of a cairn was recovered. William Copeland Borlase, in his book
'The Dolmens of Ireland' Vol. 1 (1897), gives excellent measurements and description
of the wedge tomb. He wrote that 'in the town-land of Altar, close to the edge of the
cliff on the E. side of Toormore Bay, is a dolmen marked Cromlech. The chamber lies
E. and W., and must, when perfect, have been over 12 feet in length by 6 feet 6 ins.
broad internally at the W. end, narrowing to (probably) 3 feet at the E. end. Three
stones compose the N. side, and a similar number the S. side, but probably in both cases
there were others now removed. The structure possesses two capstones, that at the W.
end measuring 8 feet 6 ins. broad from N. to S., by 8 feet 2 ins. (on the slope) from E. to
W., and that at the E. end 10 feet from S.W. to N.E., and 7 feet 3 ins. from N.W. to S.E.
The former of these roofing-stones rests slant-ways against the edges of the side stones
at the W. end, having probably fallen into that position owing to the removal of other
side and end stones. A piece has been broken out of its N.E. corner, which gives it
somewhat the appearance of a painter's pallet. In the centre of the E. roofing-stone is a
small hollow or cavity, possibly natural, but which would have served as a cup'.
CO-ORDINATES
51 30' 50.24"N...9 38' 37.85"W
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ALTAR WEDGE TOMB, COUNTY CORK