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Dolmen 13, the Druid's Altar at Carowmore by Robert Welch, 1896.
Dolmen 13, the Druid's Altar at Carowmore by Robert Welch, 1896.

Site 13

Dolmen 13, the Carrowmore Druid's Altar is located right beside the Seafield road, just a few hundred meters north of the visitor centre. The circle of this monument was destroyed, and the stones used to construct a boundary wall sometime before Petrie's 1837 visit. The circle was about thirteen meters in diameter when complete.

What remains is a large and impressive dolmen or chamber capped by a huge split boulder. The whole effect resembles a huge mushroom, much the same way that the Phantom Stones evoke a giant turtle. The stones used in this monument are all gneiss erratic from the Ballygawley mountains.

Carrowmore 13 and 14.
Carrowmore 13 and 14.

When Wood-Martin excavated the monument, he found it had already been cleared, most likely by Roger Walker. He found 600g cremated bone, fragments of shells, small pebbles, charcoal, and a piece of glass.

This monument was hit in a car crash in 1985; the occupant of the car was killed and the capstone was badly displaced, sliding away to the east. The dolmen was later repaired by Swedish archaeologi cal teamusing a crane, but the capstone has slumped down again.

A postcard of Carrowmore 13 from around 1900.
A postcard of Carrowmore 13 from around 1900.

This site and the nearby Kissing Stone are believed to mark the gateway or entry point into the ring of the Carrowmore complex, and as is often the case in Ireland, the modern road may well follow the route of the original routeway. There was a lot of activity in this area during both the Bronze and Iron ages.

Like the Kissing Stone, dolmen 13 is large enough for a person or two to squeexe into the chamber, and has a short passageway pointing away from the centre of the complex towards the north.

Carrowmore 13 and Knocknarea.
Carrowmore 13 and Knocknarea.
Dolmen 13 at Carowmore by William Wakeman
A watercolour of the impressive Dolmen 13 at Carrowmore painted by William Wakeman around 1878.
Image © County Sligo Library.

Borlase: - No. 13.

It is the first dolmen seen by the traveller on the road from Sligo to Carrowmore.

'"This circle has been destroyed by the road passing through it, but the cromleac remains, and is a fine monument of its kind. The table-stone is 20 feet in circumference, and is supported by six stones; but on the west side, or head, there are four more stones, lengthening the grave, as frequently occurs in such monuments." - Petrie.

Dolmen 13 by Petrie.
 Dolmen 13 at Carrowmore, a sketch etched from a drawing by Petrie, 1837.

"On the north side" ( Petrie's east side ), "it has the peculiar porch-like entrance of 10, but it is difficult to decide whether it was a purposed lengthening of the grave..... or whether the monument had been originally a double cromleac. The cap-stone resembles in shape the head of a mushroom."

The results of a search among the contents of the area under the covering-stone which had been thrown out and replaced perhaps, or overlooked during a previous search, "consisted of four hundred and twenty-eight small fragments of clay-coloured bones, and twenty pieces of charcoal. There was no appearance of the action of fire, and yet the bones must have been burned, though imperfectly, as some few fragments show the crack-like marks produced by fire, and noticed in other sepulchres.

There were also fragments of shells, small pebbles, and much fine brown humus and sand. Of the uncovered portion of the monument two stones remain. Close to and under one of these was found, in situ, a 'pocket' of calcined bones and an amorphous fragment of greenish glass, coated with a thick, whitish crust."

Petrie is said to have found "opaque blue-glass ornaments in cairns in the north of Ireland." - Wood-Martin.

Dolmen 13 by Welsh.
Dolmen 13 at Carrowmore photographed by R. Welsh around 1910.

I found, together with urns, calcined remains, vitreous, barrel-like beds, etc., in an encircled cairn raised around a natural rock on the cliff at Boscregan in West Cornwall, a thick piece of dark-blue glass which had become iridescent, seemingly a portion of a globular bottle of no great size. The thickness of the glass in comparison with that of Roman glass of the ordinary lachrymatory type was remarkable.

Dolmen 13 at Carrowmore.
 Dolmen 13 at Carrowmore. The circle was destroyed by the road. Beyond to the right is Carns Hill, where two massive neolithic cairns are found on the twin summits