MEGALITHIC MONUMENTS
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BALLYEDMUNDUFF WEDGE TOMB
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This magnificent example of a Bronze Age wedge tomb, circa 1700 BC, is located 1km
NNE of Glencullen, (*Gleann Cuilinn' meaning 'valley of the holly') in the town-land
of Ballyedmonduff (Bhaile Éamainn Duibh) in a small clearing in a modern planted
forest, on the SE slopes of Two Rock Mountain, 'Binn Dá Charraig' which was more
anciently and aptly known as Black Mountain (*Sliabh Lecga, meaning Mountain of
Flagstones), with commanding views to the SW. The tomb is known locally as the
giants grave and is marked as 'Giant's Grave' on all editions of the OS maps. The tomb
consists of a well-defined rectangular chamber, 6m in over-all length, divided into
three parts (ante-chamber, main chamber & a closed east chamber), surrounded by a
horse-shoe shaped, double walled kerb, filled with stones and roughly aligned WNW-
ESE. The first published description of the tomb was given by Borlase which were
based on the accounts of John O'Donovan's Ordnance Survey letters (1837). In his
account he states that the tomb was discovered & excavated by an Alderman Blacker of
Dublin in 1832-33, at which time the tomb was in the form of a tumulus but by 1837
this had been cleared and the tomb exposed. No notes from Blacker's 1832-33
excavation survives. O'Donovan writes of this monument as a ‘very fine Giant's Grave,
resembling the Bed of Callan More on Slieve Gullion, only that it is much more perfect.
I doubt if we have met so perfect a pagan grave in any other counties hitherto
examined' (OSL, 19th April, 1837). Since O'Donovan's time, and within living memory,
many stones had been removed and others show signs of stone-cutters tooling. In
March/April 1945, permission was granted by Mr. George Tracy, on whose land the
monument stood, for excavation which was financed by a grant from University
College, Dublin. The excavation was undertaken by Séan P. Ó Ríordáin and Ruaidhrí
de Valéra, along with student & graduate members of the Archaeological Society,
UCD. Within the burial gallery was found sherds of Beaker pottery, a perforated,
polished stone hammer/mace head, flints and very small quantities of cremated human
bone. Samples of charcoal were also recovered. A socket for a pillar or stone was found
in the ante-chamber suggesting some sort of a ritual stone. About 150 pieces of pottery
were found during the excavation and all but 18 can be ascribed to beaker. They are
red, buff and grey in colour, very fine & sandy and contain small grits of granite which
was probably sourced locally for their manufacture. Those found in the ante-chamber
(Image 8, Fig. A) are decorated with two parallel lines with a crisscross pattern above
& below. The fragments found in the main chamber (Image 8, Fig. B) are decorated
with lightly impressed cord ornamentation. It consists of a single band with pendant
triangles, the spaces between filled with parallel horizontal lines. The fragments of
bone that were discovered in the main chamber, were examined by Prof. E. Keenan at
UCD who reported that 'the few fragments of cremated bone received are of human
origin and include a few pieces of ribs, a lower molar and phalanx' however, 'owing to
the small number present and their condition it is not possible to determine the sex, age
or other characteristics' (PRIA, p.61). The perforated polished, stone hammer
recovered (Image 9), is a buff-colour, fine grained and was found just north of the ante-
chamber. The perforation is 4.5 cm in length, smoothly bored and is of hour-glass type.
According to Ó Ríordáin & de Valéra it 'appears too soft to have been suitable for
heavy work' (PRIA, p.78), suggesting a 'ritualistic' purpose. The cup-marked stone
(Image 10) was found lying loose on the south-side of the cairn. It is a granite block
0.70m x 0.40m x 0.20m and on one side are 7 cup-marks which are on average 3cm in
width & 1.5cm in depth. Dr. P. O'Connor from the National Museum of Ireland
reported on the samples of charcoal from the site and in his report he identified Oak,
Hawthorn, Hazel, Ash, Yew and Ivy from positions definitely sealed in the original
structure (PRIA, p.61). In the words of O’Donovan…. ‘perfect a pagan grave’.
Sources:
Borlase, W. 'The Dolmens of Ireland' Vol. 2 (1897)
Ó Ríordáin, Séan, & de Valéra, Ruaidhrí, 'Excavation of a Megalithic Tomb at
Ballyedmonduff, Co. Dublin', PRIA Vol. 55 (RIA 1952/1953)
Ordnance Survey letters Dublin (Ed. Michael Herity. Dublin: Four Masters Press,
2001)   
* Placenames Database of Ireland 2016
CO-ORDINATES
53 13' 44.731"N...6 13' 35.038"W