Ireland – Caherconnell Stone Fort, Poulnabrone Portal Tomb & Aillwee Cave

– AUGUST 08, 2015

The Caherconnell Stone Fort is a medieval and exceptionally well-preserved stone ringfort in the Burren of County Clare, Ireland.

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

A new couple of buildings contain the audio/visual presentation & graphic display areas.  The tv file shows a 3D animation of the unique history of the Burren tombs and monuments including the people’s customs, life and design of the fort.

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Caherconnell Stone Fort – the newly built media centers on site

Caherconnell Stone Fort features a circular drystone enclosure wall with a diameter 42 meters.  Walls are up to three meters thick and up to three meters high.  The amount of loose stones suggests an original height of around one extra meter.  The wall is made of local limestone with the entrance gap facing the eastward direction.

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort – looking over the wall

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort – a fire pit within the structure for preparing meals.

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

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Caherconnell Stone Fort

The Poulnabrone Portal Tomb (or Dolmen) is located in the Burren, County Clare, Ireland.  It dates back to the Neolithic period, probably between 4200 BC and 2900 BC.  Poulnabrone is sometimes wrongly translated as “Hole of Sorrows“, however it really translates to “Hole of the Quern Stones“.

Large stone tombs, known as megalithic tombs, were built throughout Western Europe during the Neolithic or New Stone Age, when the practice of farming was first becoming established.  Over ninety megalithic tombs are known to survive in the Burren; the earliest of these are court tombs and portal tombs built in the fourth millennium BC.  The portal tomb here at Poulnabrone is one of two constructed in the Burren and is perhaps the best-preserved example in Ireland.

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

The dolmen consists of a twelve-foot, thin, slab-like, tabular capstone supported by two slender portal stones, which support the capstone 1.8m from the ground, creating a chamber in a 9m low cairn.  The cairn helped stabilize the tomb chamber and would likely have been no higher during the Neolithic.  The entrance faces north and is crossed by a low sill stone.

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

At the time the tomb was constructed the landscape would have looked quite different from that of today.  Open pine forests with some elm and hazel were widespread and there were limited areas of open grassland.  Much of todays barren terrain is the result of excessive soil loss in later prehistoric times.  Many of the ancient field walls to be seen in the Burren may have been constructed by the tomb builders to enclose their farmlands and mark territorial boundaries.  An example of a low grass-covered mound wall can be seen extending to the southwest from the edge of the Poulnabrone tomb.

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

These early farmers would most likely have lived in rectangular wooden houses and their subsistence economy relied largely on the cultivation of crops (wheat and barley) and on domesticated animals, particularly cattle.  Hunting, fishing and fowling also played an important role in their economy.  In contrast with their own impermanent homes, these people built substantial stone tombs to house their dead.  The investment of labour represented by these tombs and their continued usage over a long period of time suggest that they served a powerful symbolic role in the communities and today they are enduring reminders of sacred places.

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

Poulnabrone is a classic example of a portal tomb with two tall portal stones flanking the entrance to a rectangular stoine-lined chamber which is covered by a single large capstone.  A low oval-shaped mound (cairn) of loose stone, which helped stabilise the chamber, surrounds the tomb.  This cairn would originally have been no higher than it is today, suggesting that the dramatic tomb structure was designed to be the main visual focus.

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

In 1985 the eastern portal stone collapsed.  During this time excavations here discovered that at least 33 individuals were buried in the chamber.  It is likely that the bones, which were highly fragmented, were originally buried or allowed to decompose elsewhere before being transferred to this tomb.

Personal items buried with the dead included a polished stone axe, a decorated bone pendant, stone beads, quartz crystals, chert and flint weapons, and some implements and fragments of pottery.

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

The tomb continued to dominate the landscape of later generations as evidenced by the Bronze Age burial.  Today it provides us with the opportunity to imagine and contemplate the past.

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

Poulnabrone portal tomb, and its environs, is composed of carboniferous limestone, a sedimentary rock type formed over 320 million years ago on the floor of a warm, shallow sea.  It is composed of the compacted remains of animal and plant life of these ancient waters, visible today as fossils in the rock.  Over time, massive glaciers scoured and sculpted these limestone beds to create the distinctive terraced hillsides, while dropping rounded boulders called erratics in their wake.  Ancient earth movements fractured and folded the limestone, and solution by rainwater expanded the hairline fractures to form deep cracks called grikes, separated by blocks or clints.  These are the classic features of as “karst” landscape.

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

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Poulnabrone Portal Tomb

Aillwee Cave is a cave in the karst landscape of the Burren in County Clare, Ireland.  The name Aillwee is derived from the Irish Aill Bhui which means “yellow cliff”.

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

Aillwee Cave was discovered in 1940, when a farmer named Jack McGann followed his dog who was chasing a rabbit.  The farmer did not initially explore far into the cave, as it was quite tight at first discovery.  He kept the cave discovery a secret for many years.  Then after WW2, he went back and started to dig out the layer of soil to see how open the cave really was.

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Aillwee Cave

He discovered that the cave which looked to be 2.5 feet high was actually over 6 feet high at the start.  The cave grew to be much higher as you descended deeper into the cave.  In 1973 he finally told cavers in the area of his discovery.

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

The remains of bears can also be seen inside the caves and allusions have been made to it being the last bear den in Ireland.

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

The cave is considerably older than most of the Clare caves and originally contained a large stream.  The cave is now largely deserted of the stream and is heavily backfilled with glacial infill.  The formations visible on the show cave tour are rarely more than 8000 years old, but calcite samples in the recesses of the cave have been dated to over 350,000 years old.

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

The cave system consists of over a kilometre of passages leading into the heart of the mountain.  Its features include an underground river and a waterfall as well as some large stalactites and stalagmites.

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

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Aillwee Cave

The caved system consists of over a kilometre of passages leading into the heart of the mountain.  The public tour ends at roughly the 1/3 length of the cave system.  The tour ends at a point called the Highway and exit the cave via a 250-metre man-made tunnel.

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For more photos of our adventure go to our flickr account here.

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