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Archaeology in the Ring of Gullion

The Ring of Gullion has a rich history from Megalithic, Iron age and through to the early Christian.



45377-9191This fine court tomb on the south slope of Ballymacdermot Mountain dates from about 3500BC. It has three separate burial chambers in a gallery which was entered from the forecourt – hence the name.

Funeral rites may have been performed in the forecourt before the bones or ashes of the dead were placed inside. When the site was excavated in 1962 a few fragments of cremated bone, probably human, were found in the two larger chambers. In the gallery, on the right side, you can see projecting stones (corbels) that support the roof.

In 1816 John Bell of Killevy Castle reported in The Newry Magazine that he and the local landowner Johnathon Seaver – whose name is perpetuated in Seavers Road just south of here – had opened the tomb and found an urn containing pulverised bone. A thoroughly modern encounter took place in WWII when the tomb withstood an assault by an American tank which accidentally bumped into it during manoeuvres. Despite these happenings, Ballymacdermot remains one of the finest, best preserved court tombs in Armagh.

Three-chambered count tombs are not common in Ireland but there are a number of examples in this area. Court tombs have semicircular forecourts but this one is almost circular. The existence of the granite rock on the left side may have influenced the builders to settle for a round court. Neolithic pottery was found in the forecourt and in the chambers.

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