There are about 1,200 megalithic (Greek for "Great Stone") structures in Ireland.
Older than the Pyramids?
Browneshill Dolmen, County Carlow
The massive capstone of this dolmen, estimated to weigh at least 100 tonnes, is the largest of its type in Europe. The dolmen is situated about 2 miles east of Carlow Town, 45 miles north of Waterford .
In popular folklore, dolmens were the tables or graves of giants, or druids' altars, or entrances to the Underworld of the Tuatha De Danann. The Waterford dolmen on the left is unusual in that it has two capstones.
Most megaliths date from 3,500-5,000 years ago. The Neolithic farmers who built them were here long before the English, before the Normans, and Norsemen, even long before the Celts. And for over 4,000 years before those again, lived another people, the earliest known Irish**. These Mesolithic hunter/gatherers and fishermen sailed here, or possibly crossed over land bridges from Scotland or Wales after the ice sheets started to melt, but before the seas rose high enough to make Ireland an island.
**Apparently, there is some disagreement about whether the Neolithic and Mesolithic Irish were distinct peoples, with some arguing that the Mesolithic Irish learned farming from contacts with Britain and the Continent, while others claim that there must have been a major influx of new people. There are similar debates about the later invasions/migrations of Celtic peoples into Ireland.
Then, about 9,000 years ago, the record of human habitation runs out.While remains of reindeer, Irish giant deer, woolly mammoth, brown bear and spotted hyena have been found dating from some of the "warmer" Ice Age periods as far back as 35,000 years ago, so far there are no real signs of people. Maybe there were no earlier human inhabitants. Or maybe there were, but their traces have been washed away by the rising seas, or erased by the mile high ice sheets that came and went across the country for much of the preceeding 250,000 years.
The above information was culled from a number of sources, the best being
"Early Ireland (An Introduction to Irish Prehistory)", by Michael J. O'Kelly,
published by Cambridge University Press 1989.
As far as is known, Ireland has been populated only fairly recently, if you can call 9,000 years ago recent. In contrast, the fossil and other evidence of hominid habitation in other parts of the world goes back much, much further, to 10-30,000 years ago in North America, to 60,000 in Australia, 250,000 in Britain, 500,000+ in mainland Europe, to nearly 2 million years ago in Asia, and to over 3 million years ago in Africa.
I'll be expanding this section of the site when I can, but in the meantime, half the fun is finding this stuff out for yourself. So off you go - search for the ancient temples of Malta, or Catal Hoyuk, or Red Paint people, Neanderthals, Shandimar 4, archaic Homo Sapiens, Homo Heidelbergensis, Homo Erectus, Homo Habilis, Java Man, Pekin Man, Australopithecus Afarensis or whatever. Google.com is usually fairly fast and accurate.
Another view of Waterford dolmen.
Dolmen is over 10 feet high
Giants Grave (Passage Tomb)
Circle of more than 25 stones around 20 foot by 6 foot passage tomb. Excavated in 1941(?) - 2 skeletons, pottery, jewellery found, although grave had previously been robbed. Magnificent 360' view of Waterford (Fornaght, Dunmore, Tramore Bay and Sandhills, Comeraghs etc.), and into Wexford (Saltee Islands, Hook Peninsula ) and Kilkenny , Carlow (Mount Leinster) and Tipperary (Slievenamon).
View from inside tomb, looking southwest.
By their choice of location, it's obvious that the Neolithic people who built the monument thousands of years ago could appreciate natural beauty. By their choice of location, it's equally obvious that our modern-day "planners" can't - the view to the north is now ruined by MMDS and mobile phone masts a few hundred yards away. (See below)
Mobile Phone/Microwave debate
Planning in Ireland
MORE ABOUT IRELAND
I've lived most of my life here in Waterford, Ireland. While I've always liked the scenery, it's only since I began photography that I've begun to properly see what else has been around me all these years. The countryside and towns are full of castles and cottages, watchtowers, standing stones, raths and ringforts, dolmens and stone circles. No photography, particularly not mine, can do justice to these sites - you have to be here to feel their atmosphere.
Newgrange, County Meath
More Irish Megaliths
If you have any enquiries, complaints or suggestions please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org