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BALLYMACDERMOT COURT TOMB
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BALLYMACDERMOT COURT TOMB, COUNTY ARMAGH
Ballymacdermot, 'Bhaile Mhic Dhiannada', (3500 BC) is a trapezoidal Court Tomb,
measuring 28.3m in length and 9m in width at the narrow end and is located on a level
terrace on the southeastern slopes of a mountain with panoramic views over the plain
of Meigh and Slieve Gullion. Known locally as 'The Cashla', excavations in 1962
showed a three segment gallery opening onto an unusual forecourt, forming almost
three-quarters of a circle, with the largest stones near the end of the 'horns'. The sides
are re-vetted by a kerb of stones. To the north, the cairn material rises to 2m in height
and the sides splay out to embrace the forecourt 6.2m in width and facing NNW. This is
defined by a facade of orthostats, 0.8m - 1.75m in height. In the centre, two portal
stones mark the entrance to the gallery 7m in length and is divided by a pairs of
pronounced jamb stones. These chambers were originally covered, not by flat
capstones, but by a corbelled roof, of which traces still survive. The excavations in 1962
showed the end-chamber to have been undisturbed and to contain cremated bone as
well as a curious dark brown layer which has been encountered in other Ulster
court-tomb excavations. The artefacts found included flints and Neolithic pottery. The
tomb has been investigated at various times in its history. In the 19th century it was
opened by treasure-seekers, including John Bell of Killevy Castle, who unearthed an
urn containing pulverised bone in one of the chambers. Mr Bell, writing in The Newry
Magazine in 1816, described the chambered cairn of Ballymacdermot as a tamlachta or
cairn. He reported that he and the local landowner, Johnathon Seaver had opened the
tomb and found an urn containing pulverized bone. More recently, during the Second
World War, some of the facade stones were knocked down and broken by the American
Army on tank manoeuvres. In 1962 the cairn was excavated and sherds of pottery and
worked flints were recovered, but owing to the acidic nature of the soil, only a few
fragments of cremated bone were found. After excavation the site was conserved, with
fallen stones re-erected and broken ones repaired.
CO-ORDINATES
54 9' 10.74"N...6 22' 10.97"W