House of the living, house of the dead: an open and shut case from Ballyglass, Co. Mayo?
07T15:16:32Z August 2020
The Early Neolithic court tomb at Ballyglass is the larger of two such monuments (Ma. 13 and Ma. 14 in the national inventory of megalithic monuments) in Ballyglass townland and one of a group of 30 court tombs forming a dense concentration on the carboniferous sandstones around Bunatrahir Bay in north Mayo. The tomb is situated on level ground at the western edge of a narrow area of lowlands between the sea and higher peat-covered ridges to the southwest, with the Ballinglen and Bellananaminnaun rivers lying 500 m to the east and west, respectively (Figure 1). Ballyglass Ma. 13 seems to have been first noted in the early 19th century by cartographer William Bald. In a letter postmarked 'Castlebar 1825' to a Miss Clendening in Dublin, Bald provided a simple sketch of the monument, describing it as "a druidical place of worship having two cromlechs" (Hayes 1965, 110). The dual gallery and central court features of Ballyglass Ma. 13 were subsequently confirmed in the modern megalithic surveys of the mid-20th century onwards (de Valera 1951; 1960, 94 and Plate VI: de Valera and Ó Nualláin 1964). These surveys recorded a northwest-southeast orientation and a large elliptical central court measuring 11.50 m (north-west to south-east) x 7.25 m (north-east to south-west) with a lateral entrance to the north-east and two segmented galleries running off the court in opposite directions (Figure 2). The sandstone and granite orthostatic structure had survived almost entirely intact, along with a number of corbels and a single sandstone lintel in position above the galleries. Two large sandstone slabs lying at either end of the court were interpreted as displaced gallery capstones.
Irish Research Council
Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences
University College Dublin
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Barclay, A., Field D., Leary J. (eds.). Houses of the Dead: Neolithic Studies Group Seminar Papers 17
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