Listoghil (Irish: Lios an tSeagail) is the large central monument in the Carrowmore group of prehistoric tombs in County Sligo in Ireland. It was numbered as Carrowmore 51 by George Petrie in 1837 and this designation is still used. Although the district of Knocknarea, Cuil Irra, Cailleach a Vera, etc., is steeped in legend, Listoghil has never been satisfactorily connected with the ancient legends in the way that say Newgrange has. Antiquarians in the 19th century made references to another cairn nearby at Leacharail, but the site of this has never been located.
According to Petrie (Letter to Larcom, Aug. 1837), the name may mean 'Ryefort' (it appears as Lios a tSeagail, seagail meaning rye in Irish, in early maps). However lios in Irish refers generally to a court or enclosed area so it may be that the name refers to the surrounding area rather than the cairn itself.
Listoghil stands at the highest point of a low plateau at the base of the Strandhill peninsula 2 km from Sligo town. It is placed centrally within the Carrowmore complex. To the west is Knocknarea with Miosgán Médhbh and to the east the two great cairns on Cairns hill.
It is surrounded (and generally, faced by) a cluster of 'dolmen circles', classified as Passage Graves by archaeologists. Unlike these uncovered chambers, the central monument seems to have had a cairn or covering mound of stones. It is also much bigger than its satellites, being about 34m in diameter, the satellites average about 15m. The cairn close by on Knocknarea, is twice the diameter, and stands at about 10 m high.
Early Excavation and Damage
Writings by Charles Elcock from the 1880s describe workmen removing the stones for 'road metal' and perhaps building field walls. Only when quarrymen uncovered the tomb chamber in the middle of the mound did its destruction end. By the end of the 19th century the tomb had been investigated by antiquarians of the period who recorded finding 'bones of horses', charred wood and a stone spearhead. Some materials from this tomb are in the Alnwick Castle collection.
Recent Excavation and Restoration
In the late 1990s Goran Burenhult, the Swedish archaeologist, partly excavated Listoghil. He dated bone and carbon material, and exposed the still-intact kerb. In the late 1990s the tomb was restored by the Office of Public Works. The tomb now consists of a 4 m tall, 34 m diameter cairn. Access to the central chamber - via a 13 m artificial avenue of gabions - is possible. The chamber at the heart of the mound is a dolmen-like structure, with 6 orthostats. A single limestone slab - tilted at a slight angle - crowns the chamber. A rare example of Irish megalithic art outside of the Boyne valley, consisting of concentric circular carvings, can be seen on the front side of the roof slab (this is visible only in certain lighting conditions). A symbol described by Julian Cope as 'a strangely distorted tryfuss' has been carved on a stone inside.
Bone and carbon material from Listoghil was carbon dated to between 3640 and 3380 BC. The human bones found there were a mixture of cremated, and un-cremated bones; the older, smaller tombs around it generally contain burnt bones. Evidence of some earlier activity on the site - carbon material calibrated to around 6100 years ago - was found by the Swedish archaeologist who excavated Listoghil. This was discovered in the context of an area of 'massive stone packing', set on the earthen platform on which Listoghil is constructed, outside the kerb, to the south of the tomb. Extensive burning took place on the area of the site before the tomb was erected.
- Tombs for Hunters, Burenhult, G, British Archaeology 82, 2005, pp22–27
- The Megalithic European, Cope, J, Harper Collins, London, 2004
- Letter from Petrie to Larcom, Aug 12 1837. Ordnance Survey Letters, Royal Irish Academy, Shelf Mark 14 F 14 No 45