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Court Tomb

<b>Ballymacaldrack</b>Posted by minipixelImage © Philip Hay
Also known as:
  • Dooey's Cairn

OS Ref (GB):   D021183 / Sheet: 8
Latitude:55° 0' 5.9" N
Longitude:   6° 24' 15.3" W

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A very easy to find tomb, signposted from both ends of Presbetery Lane, just off the B16, about 3/4 of a mile SE of the village of Dunloy, in the townland of Ballymacaldrack. Known locally as 'Dooey's Cairn'.
The tomb is in State Care, and as such is pretty tightly fenced in, however this does little to detract from the stones remaining.

An impressive court tomb, with an amazing u-shaped forecourt at the SW end, comprising 11 massive, well shaped stones.

The following text is taken from the information board at the forecourt end of the tomb...
Dooey's Cairn is on the east side of Long Mountain, a prominent north-south ridge, rich in prehistoric remains. The cairn, in the Ballymacaldrack townland, is a court grave. It was excavated in 1935 and 1975. A flat-topped cairn of stones with traces of a retaining kerb on the long sides has at its south-west end a U-shaped forecourt of 11 uprights. Broken fragments of plain and decorated round-bottomed pottery bowls were found in the forecourt, suggesting that some ritual may have taken place there.

Two portal stones mark the entrance from the forecourt into a small chamber, with a roughly cobbled floor. A polished stone axe found between the portals during excavation has been called the 'magic guardian' of the grave. On the floor of the chamber were found fragments of pottery, flint arrowheads and a stone bead. Beyond the chamber, through another pair of stones, was a cremation passage with boulder walls and a flagged floor, interrupted by three pits. The first pit held a wooden post, and pit 3 at the end of the passage was full of cremated human bones, the remains of 5 or 6 adults, both male and female. Radiocarbon has dated the cremated remains to around 3,000 BC and the blocking of the forecourt to about 500 years later. The cremation passage is the only one known so far in Ireland, but similar features are found in Scotland and north-east England.

Court graves were built as communal burial monuments by early farming communities of the Neolithic period (4 to 5,000 years ago). In Ireland they are mainly confined to the northern third of the country. There are at least 18 court graves in County Antrim, two of which, THE BROAD STONE at Craigs on the west side of Long Mountain and OSSIAN'S GRAVE near Cushendall, are in State Care.

Dooey's Cairn is named after the family who generously placed the monument in State Care in 1976.

Further Reading: A E P Collins, 'Dooey's Cairn, Ballymacaldrick, Co. Antrim' Ulster Journal of Archaeology 39 (1976), 1-7; E E Evans, 'Doey's Cairn, Dunloy, Co. Antrim, Ulster Journal of Archaeology 1 (1938), 59-68.
Posted by minipixel
17th June 2006ce
Edited 18th June 2006ce