Dolmen 13, marked as the Druid's Altar on early maps of Carrowmore is located right beside the Seafield road, just a few hundred meters north of the
Visitor Centre, and is on private property. The circle of this monument was destroyed when the Seafield road was constructed, and the stones were used to build a boundary wall sometime before Petrie's 1837 visit. The circle was about thirteen meters in diameter when complete complete, and the monument would have been an ipmressive sight, a rival to the nearby Kissing Stone for the size of its capstone.
What remains of this early passage-grave is a massive and impressive dolmen or burial chamber capped by a huge split gneiss boulder.
The whole effect resembles a huge mushroom, much the same way that the Phantom Stones evokes a giant turtle. The stones used in this monument are all gneiss erratics, carried here from the Ballygawley mountains in the white apron of the Cailleach Garavogue: the glaciers of the most recent ice age.
When Wood-Martin excavated the
monument, he found it had already been cleared out, most likely by Roger Walker, possibly aided by Petrie. Wood-Martin
found 600g cremated bone, fragments of shells, small pebbles, charcoal,
and a piece of glass.
Carrowmore 13 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 repaired by Swedish archaeological team using a crane during a 1998 rescue excavation (see details below), but the capstone has slumped down to its old position again.
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 a far more ancient routeway. There was a huge amount of activity in this area during both the Bronze and Iron ages, with the spaced boulder circles, possibly bronze age imitations of the Carrowmore circles, and the huge Iron age mound known as the Caltragh, close by.
Like the nearby Kissing Stone, the chamber of Carrowmore 13 is large enough for a living person to squeeze into the monument. The remaining stones of a short passageway point away from the centre of the complex towards the north.
Borlase's Report, 1896
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.
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
Petrie is said to have found "opaque blue-glass ornaments
in cairns in the north of Ireland." - Wood-Martin.
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.
As part of their 1998 season, Göran Burenhult and his team excavated the badly collapsed chamber of Carrowmore 13. The dig, which was a rescue exvavation, has been published in full and can be downloaded here. Portions of the report are reproduced below.
Prior to the 1998 excavation it was established that three orthostats had been removed from the north-western part of the construction some time after Petrie documented the monument. The only remaining orthostat not covered by the capstone had fallen on its side, and one other orthostat supporting the capstone had also fallen over and into the monument due to a car crashing into the tomb in 1985.
The monument has an opening, or entrance, on its south-eastern side where the ground slopes abruptly down and outwards. All of the stones in the boulder circle are missing. Because of the instability of the construction, the capstone was removed from the tomb before the excavation commenced as a precautionary measure.
Reconstruction Work August 1998
A total of 18.20 square meters was excavated during the 1998 excavation season. The reconstruction work of Tomb No. 13 was commenced and completed in August 1998, while the excavation was still in progress. The aim was to permanently stabilise the monument in the shape it had before the car accident in 1985. To allow this, late 19th century documentation (Wood-Martin 1888), and photographs from the late 1970’s were used (Burenhult 1984).
For safety reasons, the areas close to the orthostats inside and outside the central chamber were excavated sectionwise, allowing part of the orthostat to rest against the original soil whilst another part was excavated and secured with concrete. The base of all the orthostats were covered with plastic before securing them with concrete to avoid damage to the stones. Orthostat No. 3 was raised and placed in its original position. Orthostat No. 4 was also raised and placed in its original foundation which was exposed during the excavation. A frame of concrete strengthened by iron rods was built around the construction in order to further stabilise the monument.
The capstone was then lifted back into its original position. After the reconstruction, the site was refilled with clay and topsoil, and then returfed.
Finds from Carrowmore 13
Burenhult did not find much in the way of artefacts during his excavations. This can be explained by the previous excavations 150 years earlier by Roger Walker and a century ago by W. G. Wood-Martin.
The excavation revealed only a small quantity of artefacts and other archaeological materials. The absence of a finds may be explained by the fact that the tomb had previously been ‘examined’, and in 1888 Wood-Martin recorded the following:
‘The area covered by the table-stone of the cromleac had been recently examined, the clay showing visible traces of disturbance; but some of the contents had been either replaced or overlooked, for the results of a further search consisted of 428 small fragments of clay-coloured bones and 20 pieces of charcoal; 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’