Rathlacken Court Tomb, Lacken in Co. Mayo

The site is part of a prehistoric landscape of dwelling houses and megalithic tombs within a countryside of stone-walled fields, all preserved beneath bogland.

It consists of an exceptionally well preserved court tomb with three fine chambers built from massive upright stones and a circular court in front. A large capstone, weighing a few tons, had collapsed into the front chamber but was removed using Stone Age techniques of wooden levers and ropes. The tomb is one of the finest examples in the country and gives an insight into how these monuments were constructed.

No bones survived but remains of what probably were cremation deposits were found in one chamber. A lot of pottery of different styles and stone implements were found on the site.

Built on to the side of the court tomb was a stone walled enclosure which surrounded a very small dwelling house which had a low stone wall, a threshold stone at the doorway, and a hearthstone in the centre covered by a mass of charcoal from the last fire on it which had burned about 4,600 years ago.

The tomb had been built before 5,300 years ago so it is known from the excavation that our Neolithic ancestors continued living in this area long after the people had already abandoned the Céide Fields area. Eventually they too had to succumb to the onslaught of the bogs. However, the tomb was re-used again about 4,000 years ago by Bronze Age people for burials.

The tomb itself was first discovered by the late Major Aldridge in the 1950s. The extensive field systems and several house sites in the area were surveyed and mapped out by Greta Byrne. The excavation was undertaken between 1990 and 1997 and was funded by grants from Duchas, The Heritage Service. The site itself is owned by Coillte who gave permission for the excavation.

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