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Poulnabrone Dolmen

One of about 170 portal tombs, mostly in the north of Ireland, this is probably the most photographed of all and is located in the Burren. Poulnabrone means 'The hole of the sorrows'.

The capstone rests on two 1.8m high portal stones to create a chamber in a 9m low cairn. The eastern portal stone was replaced in 1986, following a discovery that it was cracked, and the opportunity to perform excavations at the same time was taken. Uncremated remains were found in the chamber, particularly in the grykes, of a newborn baby, 6 juveniles, and between 16 and 22 adults.

A great deal can be interpreted from the finds. The bones were radio carbon dated to between 5800 to 5200 years ago. Dental analysis suggested a diet which consisted of stone ground cereals which would suggest they were Neolithic farmers, a view supported by plant remains. The adults also had arthritis and most were less than 30 years old when they died, suggesting a physically demanding lifestyle. Three major injuries were found on the bones including one with a flint arrow or spear point in a hip which showed no signs of having healed. It can be inferred that there was a lot of conflict involved in their lives.

The bones had had their flesh removed elsewhere before being buried, possibly by being buried elsewhere and then exhumed. The fact that this group of individuals attracted this attention and were reburied in such a significant monument suggests a society where status was important, but much of that can only be speculation.