MEGALITHIC MONUMENTS
OF IRELAND.COM
BALLYKEEL PORTAL TOMB
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Ballykeel Portal Yomb lies just at the foot of the western flank of Slieve Gullion, on a
fairly level terrace, which drops away to the west to a tributary of the Forkhill River.
This fine monument comprises a fine portal grave at the south end of a long cairn
which, towards the north, also contains a cist. The cairn is very low rising no more
than 0.75m above the natural ground level. It is aligned NNW - SSE and measures
28.5m by 9m. Excavation within the cairn revealed a series of four rows of stone
settings, more or less equally spaced apart and running parallel to the axis of the cairn.
The two inner rows were built of large granite boulders set upright, whilst the stones of
the outer rows were frequently layed flat and in places rose two or three courses high
forming low walls. It is possible the the outer rows formed some sort of kerb to the
cairn. Just within the north end of the cairn, the remains of a cist was identified. Only
two side stones survived on the east & south but the socket of another was found on the
west. The floor of the cist comprised of hard packed earth upon which lay a few sherds
of Neolithic pottery, a small lozange javelin head and a flint flake. The portal tomb
consists of two well matched portal stones measuring 2.1m & 1.8m in height, the rear
supporting stone 1.8m in height, which all support the massive capstone which
measures 3.05m in length, 2.3m in width and 0.30m in depth. Between the portal stones
was a door slab or blocking stone, 1.8m in height. It was found that the back support
stone had been embedded high among cairn stones, 0.60m of which were concealed in
cairn stones and a shallow socket, whereas the portal stones were in pits dug into the
subsoil and had been carefully packed around with small stones. There were no
recognisable walls to the chamber and  no sockets for upright stones were found. Most
of the finds were recovered from a layer of black soil which filled a slight hollow near
the centre of the chamber. Several hundred sherds of pottery were found and they
included plain carinated western, course flat bottom but most impressive of all were
three highly decorated 'Ballyalton' bowls, all found in fragments within the area of the
chamber. Other finds include a combined end-scaper & kinfe, worked flint and an iron
arrowhead. There was no trace of bones and any burials in either the portal tomb or
the cist were probably destroyed by the acidity of the soil.
BALLYKEEL PORTAL TOMB, COUNTY ARMAGH
CO-ORDINATES
54 8' 7.89"N...6 28' 39.06"W