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ALTAR WEDGE TOMB COUNTY CORK
Built from local sandstone slabs, this Wedge Tomb, also known as 'Tuama Dingeach na hAltóra', is one of a
dozen in the area of the Mizen Head, 'Carn Uí Néid', at the western extremity of the peninsula formerly known as
the Ivagha Peninsula or 'Uíbh Eachach'. It is located on a small level area 30m from the rocky shoreline on the
NE edge of Toormore Bay, just off the R592 from Toormore, 'An Tuar Mor' to Skull, 'An Scoil' and is marked
'Cromlech' on both the OSI & Historic maps. It was erected at the end of the late Neolithic - early Bronze Age,
around 2,500 BC, with its entrance aligned ENE - WSW, seemingly with the distant Mizen Peak and it has been
suggested that this was an orientation towards the setting sun at Samhain in early November. The tomb consists of
a fairly well-preserved, simple trapezoidal orthostatic gallery 3.42m in length, represented by three stones on each
side (with those on the northern side leaning inwards), that is 1.9m in width at west end & 1.25m in width at east
end. A roof-stone, 2.7m in length, is still in position above the eastern end of the gallery and a second roof-stone,
2.6m in length, rests against the westerly stones at either side of the gallery. It was excavated in 1989 by Dr.
William O'Brien and Madeline Duggan. These excavations produced cremated bone of a human adult found near
the entrance, a single un-burnt tooth, some charcoal from two pits near the rear of the chamber and some deposits
of shellfish such as periwinkles and limpets. Worked flint, including scrapers, were found outside chamber. The
cremated remains were radiocarbon dated to about 2,000 BC while those from the pits in the chamber floor
returned dates around 1,200 BC, the middle Bronze Age. Later a pit was dug and filled in around 200 AD. A socket
for a back-stone and a low kerb feature were also uncovered during excavations. No clear evidence of a cairn was
recovered. William Copeland Borlase, in his book “The Dolmens of Ireland” Vol. 1 (1897), gives excellent
measurements and description of the wedge tomb. He wrote: “In the town-land of Altar, close to the edge of the
cliff on the E. side of Toormore Bay, is a dolmen marked Cromlech. The chamber lies E. and W., and must, when
perfect, have been over 12 feet in length by 6 feet 6 ins. broad internally at the W. end, narrowing to (probably) 3
feet at the E. end. Three stones compose the N. side, and a similar number the S. side, but probably in both cases
there were others now removed. The structure possesses two cap-stones, that at the W. end measuring 8 feet 6 ins.
broad from N. to S., by 8 feet 2 ins. (on the slope) from E. to W., and that at the E. end 10 feet from S.W. to N.E.,
and 7 feet 3 ins. from N.W. to S.E. The former of these roofing-stones rests slant-ways against the edges of the
side stones at the W. end, having probably fallen into that position owing to the removal of other side and end
stones. A piece has been broken out of its N.E. corner, which gives it somewhat the appearance of a painter’s
pallet. In the centre of the E. roofing-stone is a small hollow or cavity, possibly natural, but which would have
served as a cup”.
ALTAR WEDGE TOMB, COUNTY CORK