Knocknarea and Queen Maeve's cairn.
Circle 19, the largest of the circles at Carrowmore, looking east with the dramatic Dartry Mountains for a backdrop.

Circle 19 - Carrowmore

Circle 19 at Carrowmore is the largest of the monuments excepting the central cairn at Listoghil. There are fourty-four large boulders placed in a ring 25 meters in diameter enclosing a raised platform or tertre, as are many other circles at Carrowmore.

The boulders are quite large and have been placed standing up, as with nearby Circle 27, which gives the monument a most imposing appearance. Seven of the circle stones had fallen over, while another nine boulders from the circle had slipped into the quarry on the north west side, and these were replaced by Göran Burenhult and his team during the rescue excavation which took place in 1997.

Circle 19 at Carrowmore during excavations in 1997.
Circle 19 at Carrowmore during excavations in 1997.
Photo © Göran Burenhult.

Like the other monuments in the Carrowmore series, Circle 19 was probably dug by the Antiquarian tomb-raider Roger Walker, a collector and dealer in antiquities who kept poor records of his activities. When Petrie visited in 1837, he noted that the interior of the circle contained "several kistavens or cromleacs within it, of which the remains are visible."

Wood-Martin, excavating some 50 years after Petrie and Walker found the destroyed chamber area to contain the largest collection of bones he had seen at Carrowmore. The only evidence of a central construction, two large slabs set on edge at right angles, are visible west of the centre of the circle. Three small stones may indicate a smaller inner circle. Wood-Martin found a massive amount of unburnt bones here (listed below), which probably date from a later period.

The site is easy to access, as it is close to the road with both a gate and a stile. It is on the right hand side of the road as you proceed south. Circles 26 and 27 are located close by. They are the grandest and best-preserved of the great chain of circles at Carrowmore.

Circle 19 viewed from the central monument.
Circle 19 viewed from the central monument.

Borlase: Circle 19.

Situated south of 15 (dolmen-circle (several dolmens or cists)). "This circle is the grandest of the whole series now remaining. It is 72 feet in diameter, and consists of forty-nine stones, the original number being apparently fifty-two. These stones are all of great magnitude, and many of them are 7 feet above ground. It had evidently several kistvaens, or cromleacs, within it, of which the remains are visible, as well as one outside the circle, on the west, the stones of which remain."

- Petrie.

"Being placed on an artificially-raised mound an imposing appearance is produced. The mound, however, has been undermined by people seeking for gravel, and some of the boulders on the northwest have rolled to the bottom of the slope.... An excavation into what was apparently the site of the central chamber showed that the interment had been greatly disturbed. One flag only of the original flooring was left in situ, but the largest collection of uncalcined bones discovered in Carrowmore has here exhumed.

A long line of contiguous stones, terminating in a large one on the northwest side of the area, looks like one side of the passage into a dolmen from the edge of the circle. Among the bones discovered there were portions of jaw-bones, with the teeth still adhering; in short, the human remains were in a less fragmentary state than in any of the other circles examined. On the clay being carefully sifted, three or four pieces of bone among all the uncalcined pieces proved to be calcined."

- Wood Martin.

Circle 19 at Carrowmore during excavations in 1997.
Circle 19 at Carrowmore during excavations in 1997.
Photo © Göran Burenhult.

These remains were submitted to Drs. MacDowel of Sligo, and Frazer of Dublin. The former stated that, "beyond doubt, they represent human remains. Some of the bones are those of a child, others those of an adult, and some those of an individual of advanced years. The bones belong to an undersized race. Amongst them there is also the femur and incised tooth of an ox."

Dr. Frazer reports as follows: "I find four heel bones; three of them belong to the right feet, and one to the left foot. There must, therefore, have been three different interments of separate bodies; but I cannot refer the other bones found with them to the individuals.

I find fragments all belonging to a large and well-developed male, such as upper end of humerus, femur, tibia, and ulna; also portions of small sized individual, possibly a female—I should say not young—namely femur, top of radius, and part of platycnemic tibia. Teeth and portions of jaws of adults of advanced life—at least in full maturity; also part of skull of small cow, and leg-bone and vertebra, possibly of a small horse, about which, being broken, and having no bones for comparison, I cannot, however, speak positively. There were some teeth of calf or small cow, and two teeth of a small dog or cat. The rest consist of numerous fragments, which would require hours to examine..... all appear to belong to an early race."

Carrowmore 19 looking west.
Circle 19, the largest of the circles at Carrowmore looking west with Knocknarea in the background.

Burenhult's Excavation, 1997

The partial rescue excavation and reconstruction of Tomb No. 19 was commenced and completed during the 1997 excavation season. Tomb No. 19 consists of a large boulder circle with a diameter of approx. 25 metres. The circle was probably originally constructed with 54 stones, the number found in and around the circle in 1997, but quarrying close to the monument has made it collaps, especially its western and southern parts. Nine stones had fallen down into the quarry on the western side, and another seven stones were in great danger, being very close to the edge of the deep quarry.

On the south side of the monument, several stones had fallen out of position, and some of those were also at great risk to slide down on the road that leads down into the quarry. The remains of a heavily damaged chamber in the western part of the circle was visible before the excavation, as well as the remains of an inner stone circle. In 1888, Wood-Martin described Tomb No. 19 in the following way:.

The interior had evidently contained several kistvaens, or cromleacs, of which traces are still visible. An excavation into what was apparently the site of the central chamber showed that the interment had been greatly disturbed. One flag only of the original flooring was left in situ, but the largest collection of uncalcined bones discovered in Carrowmore was here exhumed.

Excavations were made at three other places within the enclosure, but nothing of interest was observable.

- Wood-Martin 1888..

The rescue excavation and restoration of Tomb No. 19 was initiated by the OPW as a result of the hazardous condition of the monument. A total-station survey was conducted by the National Monuments & Historic Properties Service in April 1997, before the excavation. The excavation area is marked on a copy of this survey, and the stones have been numbered clockwise from the north-westernmost stone. Only three stones in the chamber, as well as four stones in the inner stone circle, were visible before the excavation. Together with additional stones found during the excavation, these have been registered with letters, A-J.

The system of co-ordinates was placed with the point of origin in the center of the monument, with the X-axis northwest-southeast, and the Y-axis northeast-southwest, allowing the X-axis to run alongside the outline and direction of the chamber. The fixed point was chosen at the highest point of Stone No. 11 in the boulder circle, Z+56.37 mmeters above sea level.

The chamber was badly damaged and all stones apart from Stone B were found out of original position. The remains of a limestone flooring was found as scattered pieces. A concentration of cremated human bones, found under a limestone slab in the western part of the chamber, was named Cist A. Altogether ten stones in the inner stone circle were exposed. Most of the area, also outside the chamber, had been dug into in modern times. An area of 76 square meters was excavated during the 1997 excavation season before the restoration work started.

Scattered cremated and unburnt human and animal bones were found during the excavation, mostly inside the destroyed chamber. Also, ten stone artefacts were found, including 5 stone balls of different size and colour.

Stone balls from Carrowmore 19.
Five stone balls discovered in Circle 19 during the 1997 rescue excavation.
Looking west from Carrowmore 19.
The view to the west to Knocknarea and Queen Maeve's cairn from Circle 19 at Carrowmore.