Irish megalithic tombs

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

Court tombs[edit]

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. Sometimes they are called a lobster-claw cairn

Passage tombs[edit]

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

Wedge tombs[edit]

These tombs are generally found in the west and north west of Ireland. Their sloping roof and narrowing walls at one end produce there characteristic wedge shape.

Portal dolmens[edit]

They are mainly 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.

Distribution by province[edit]

The numbers are derived from the Irish National Monument Service[2] and the Northern Ireland Sites & Monument Record. [3]

Court Tomb Passage Tomb Portal Tomb Wedge Tomb
Leinster 11 83 24 19
Munster 7 9 21 337
Connacht 197 90 44 125
Ulster 185 37 96 88

Furthermore there are nearly 1000 unclassified megalithic structures known.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Valera and Nualláin (1961). Survey of the megalithic tombs of Ireland. Dublin: Ordnance Survey (Ireland). 
  2. ^
  3. ^


  • Shire Archaeology - Irish Megalithic Tombs.

External links[edit]