"Time and the lack of written record, have tied a tight blindfold between us and prehistory, but occasionally we get the chance of a small nudge in the right direction. Following the recent collapse of its capstone, Tirnony portal tomb, in County Derry, is to be excavated in advance of restoration."
Archaeologists are to dig out a portal tomb in Northern Ireland for the first time in 50 years.
The collapse of Tirnony Dolmen near Maghera has produced a rare opportunity to discover what lies beneath — and exactly how old it is.
Normally portal tombs, which are among the oldest built structures still standing in Northern Ireland, are off limits to excavators and must be preserved.
But after the massive capstone of this portal tomb fell to the ground earlier this year, archaeologists will be able to uncover the secrets it has held for millennia before repairs are carried out.
Tirnony Dolmen is between 5,000 and 6,000 years old, according to Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIIEA) archaeologist Paul Logue.
"After standing in Northern Ireland weather for over 5,000 years some of the tomb's structural stones have begun to crack, causing the capstone to slip," he said.
"Before we start to repair the tomb we will excavate it to ensure that the archaeological material associated with it is recorded ahead of restoration work.
"When the tomb was first built it would have been used for interring the bones of selected members of the local stone age community. This could have included men and women, young and old. Finds from inside similar tombs include pottery and flint tools, possibly left as grave goods for use by the dead in the afterlife.
"We hope to find out more about how this tomb was built, when it was built and how it was used."
Members of the public are invited to come along on Friday afternoons to find out for themselves what has been unearthed. The excavation will also be charted in a blog revealing the latest finds.
Mr Logue said the tomb was originally built by digging out a trench where the upright stones were embedded, packing round these with smaller stones before installing the massive capstone on top of them.
In recent years, the capstone, which weighs between two and a half and three tonnes, had begun to rock, putting pressure on the supporting stones beneath. These then moved, causing the capstone to slide further.
(Acknowledgements to WRAO and Digital Digging for this information)
Gortmonly (Cup and Ring Marks / Rock Art) — Fieldnotes
I found this rock while out prospecting for gold. Don't worry I didn't hit it with my hammer!!
It's very important I know about megaliths as hevan forbid I damage any of these prehistoric wonders. But this one did not appear to be on any maps.
It is located behind a small quarry at the top of the lower north eastern mound at Gortmonly Hill in Co. Derry, Northern Ireland.
GR: 240769 408652
It has recently been uncovered by farmer who has chopped down a lot of bush. Maybe he intends to extend his quarry so this site must be recognised before it is lost.
The stone needs a proper clean up and inspection. If anyone wishes to go have a look with me please e-mail me. Maybe there is more in the surrounding area if anyone wishes to explore.