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Court Cairn at Ballinamona Lower, Old Parish

This court cairn is situated in the townland of Ballinamona Lower, Parish of Ardmore.  The site is marked 'dolmen' on the 6 inch O.S. map, and is known locally as 'Cailleach Bhearra's House'.  It is located about one mile north of Mine Head Lighthouse and about 100 yards from the cliff edge.

In May 1938 an excavation was carried out on the site as part of the relief of unemployment programme under the direction of T.G.E. Powell.  Laurence Mongey a chemist and antiquarian and amateur photographer from Dungarvan helped on the dig.

The Cairn & Forecourt : The cairn (mound of stones covering the tomb) was not retained by kerb stones and was about 32 feet in length with about 6 feet on either side of the chamber.  On the south side of the forecourt a small hearth was found.  The forecourt consisted of four large free standing uprights, two in the north and two on the south side.

Plan And Elevation of a Portal Tomb
The Chamber : This is 10 feet 6 inches long and 5 feet 3 inches wide.  It is built with five orthostats, two on the north, two on the south and one on the east side.  The entrance opening at the west end is 18 inches wide.  The chamber is divided into two compartments.  Originally the chambers would have been covered by two or three slabs, these have since disappeared. The excavation found that compartment A had been disturbed, as a pit had been dug into the floor probably by treasure hunters.  Some flint flakes were found in this area.  Some artefacts were found in compartment B including a small amount of cremated bone.  However the floor here had been disturbed at some period.

The Finds : Eleven pottery shards were found in compartment B.  This ware was about 5 millimetres thick.  The shards had a red colour with patches of grey.  Some larger shards were found and when these were joined they formed about one quarter of the rim of a vessel about 13 cm in diameter across the mouth.  The shards were 11 mm thick and composed of grey and white stone grits and mica.  The colour of the pot shards were dark brown with grey and white specks.

'The reconstruction suggests a round base for the vessel which, if this were so, was then of a simple bowl type with heavy applied ledge rim.  Decoration is found on the rim ledge on the body of the pot where it survives.  On the rim are a series of five broad, shallow, horizontal grooves.  Above these, on the edge of the lip are a row of very small vertical impressions.  The outer angle of the applied ledge forms the centre line of a herring bone pattern, made by small oblique stroke like impressions closely set on either side.  The herring bone pattern deteriorates in some places to a few strokes on the upper side only, and in another it is supplanted by three rough stokes executed in the stab and drag technique.  Below the best row of herring bone is a zone broad horizontal grooves...'

Flints : Numerous natural flint flakes were found in the chambers and the cairn. Only three showed signs of human working.

Stone Disc : In the corner of compartment B. a small stone disc was found.  It was made of a fine grained piece of old Red Sandstone with a diameter of 5 cm and 8 mm thick in the centre.

by William Fraher

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