Irish megalithic tombs

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Ireland has a wealth of impressive historical monuments. In Ireland there are four types of megalithic tombs: court cairns, passage tombs, and portal dolmens.[1]

Court tombs[edit]

There are about 15000 of this type of tomb (sometimes called a lobster-claw cairn) in Ireland. These tombs have an open east-facing entrance court which leads into a number of rectangular chambers (up to four). The chambers are roofed on the inside by corbelling. Each of these chambers may contain inhumations and cremated remains. Surrounding these chambers is a low dry stone wall with orthostats at the extremities.

Passage tombs[edit]

There are many tombs of this type in Ireland. Examples include Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth.The passage tomb is a large mound of earth or stone with a narrow passage leading from outside to a central chamber or chambers.

Wedge tombs[edit]

Between 500 and 550 of these wedge tombs survive today. They are generally found in the west and north west of Ireland. Their sloping roof and narrowing walls at one end produce their characteristic wedge shape.

Portal dolmens[edit]

There are 163 portal tombs in Ireland. The majority located in the northern half of the country. The tomb as a straight sided chamber often narrowed at the rear. The entrance is marked by tall portal stones. On top lies a huge single cap stone resting on the portal stones on the front and sloping at the rear where it rests on the backstone. In the majority of cases the tomb entrance faces the east towards the sunrise. This is not always the case though as many tombs face different directions. Examples of portal tombs include Kilmogue, County Kilkenny; Poulnabrone in the Burren, County Clare; and Knockeen, County Waterford.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Valera and Nualláin (1961). Survey of the megalithic tombs of Ireland. Dublin: Ordnance Survey (Ireland). 


  • Shire Archaeology - Irish Megalithic Tombs.

External links[edit]