The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian


Court Tomb


The area around the staunchly Republican South Armagh town of Crossmaglen, prosaically dubbed 'Bandit Country' by British soldiers during the Anglo-Irish troubles, was found to emanate a quite intimidating aura by this somewhat wide-eyed, head down traveller in search of megalithic treasures. Not so Mr Cope, who - if the legend is true - once brazenly drove through town sporting his enormous Luftwaffe cap. Mind you, there were what appeared to be 20mm cannon shell holes penetrating several road signs at the time of my visit, so please don't be too harsh on me.....

From Crossmaglen head north on the B135 towards Cullyhanna, the trick being to pick up Annaghmare Road going left at some crossroads, then proceeding just under 1 mile down this road to locate a minor access track on the right. More difficult than it sounds, since clearly several promised signposts had been removed. Park at the end of the access track and there it is, the superbly preserved court tomb standing before you upon - or perhaps more accurately, engulfing - a small knoll backed by woodland.

Seeming only lacking capstones, the tomb possesses a fine facade of large orthostats either side of a central galley, this being aligned approx north/south and consisting of three linear chambers. Beyond, at the far (northern) end of the cairn, lie two lateral chambers, apparently later insertions, the cairn being therefore extended to accommodate them. The quality of construction is excellent, with high quality dry stone courses being utilised to fill the spaces between orthostats.

Both forecourt and entrance were apparently sealed sometime between c3100 and 2,800 BC, radio carbon dates in this range being obtained from charcoal found behind the blocking material. And there's more... According to Carleton Jones (Temples of Stone) the relative positioning of the facade stones may well have represented an attempt to embody male/female symbolism within the structure. Specifically, the 3rd orthostat to the right of the gallery entrance is the largest of the entire tomb, potentially suggesting 'masculinity', whilst the 4th to the left is, bizarrely, set upon its narrower end as if to represent a 'top-heavy' female shape. This would certainly explain what is otherwise a very structurally unsound, not to mention difficult to achieve, architectural arrangement. Not quite 'Page 3', I grant you, but infinitely more 'tasteful', I'd have thought?

Annaghmare is thus a complex, damn interesting monument and... once a hovering army helicopter decides to bugger off.... possesses a great vibe within its woodland setting. I loved it and left South Armagh a little wiser in more ways than one.
23rd March 2010ce
Edited 24th March 2010ce

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