RICH HERITAGE OF TOMBS
“AROUND 6000 years ago the first farming communities appeared in Ireland,” said Cairns expert Stefan Bergh during his guided tour of the Cairns of Cairns Hill.
He described how these settlers cleared forests, lived in timber houses and kept animals. These neolithic farmers built great monuments called megaliths where burials took place.
Interestingly Stefan pointed out that burials were just one of many functions of these strategically placed monuments. They, he said, were also used as places of ritual, where people gathered for various customs.
The positioning of these tombs in County Sligo were deliberate. “These sites are meant to be seen,” said Stefan, “They are not placed at random. This site on Cairns Hill is facing west and is meant to be seen from Carrowmore and Knocknarea. These sites stick out like sore thumbs and they compliment each other and this was a very conscious decision.
“Like cathedrals today, they were not found everywhere but in certain places. There main purpose was not for burial but for other traditions just like a church is not just for burials.”
In terms of food, he told the crowd that these early settlers were very interested in oysters and remains of shell middens where oyster shells were dumped after consumption still exist along the coastline in Sligo today.
“The first evidence we have of human activity during this age is in Maugheraboy,” he said.
He described the Coolera peninsula as a rich heritage landscape with 70 tombs found predominantly in three distinct clusters: On Cairns Hill in the east, in Carrowmore in the centre and on Knocknarea to the west. The greatest quantity can be found in Carrowmore where originally some 50 were built and this is a well developed heritage site and tourist attraction in Sligo. Knocknarea dominated by Queen Maeve’s Cairn is also hugely popular on the tourist trail. The hope now is to transform Cairns Hill into a similar type attraction.
Crowd gathers on the top of Ciarns Hill to hear talk by expert
Pat Benson, Hon Sec, Carraroe and District Regeneration Association.
A view from the top of the Cairns at Cairns Hill, Carraroe.