Poulnabrone Portal Tomb is one of the most photographed megalithic monuments in Ireland, mainly due to its superb sculptured form and easy access from the road. During the summer months there is a constant trail of people going to and from the Dolmen. The day I took these pictures was quite wet, which kept many tourists away. The Site was excavated in 1986 and produced the human remains of 16 adults and children plus other artefacts, these dated the tomb to around 2,500 B C.
The entrance faces north and is almost 2 metres high, The thin capstone is tilted at the usual angle and measures about 3 1/2 metres long and 2 metres wide. Poulnabrone means ' the hole of the sorrows' There are many other interesting sites near poulnabrone including the Wedge tombs at Gleninsheen and Baur South and the Stone Fort at Caherconnell.
A dolmen (also known as cromlech (Welsh), anta, Hünengrab, Hunebed, Goindol, quoit, and portal dolmen) is a type of single-chamber megalithic tomb, usually consisting of three or more upright stones supporting a large flat horizontal capstone (table). Most date from the early Neolithic period (4000 to 3000 BC). Dolmens were usually covered with earth or smaller stones to form a barrow, though in many cases that covering has weathered away, leaving only the stone "skeleton" of the burial mound intact.
Do you know what a Dolmen is? It is a prehistoric site made up of two or more heavy upright stones with a capstone, usually forming a chamber, that is usually used as a burial place. Dolmens can be found in Western, Southern and Northern Europe. These Dolmens have fascinated people for centuries. Why would ancient peoples go to so much trouble to construct these structures, positioning stones that weigh more than a ton?
Dolmens are classified as megalithic monuments. The most famous are those located at Stonehenge in England. Here we find a circle of very large stones, some weighing as much as fifty tons. These stones, some fifty in number, were somehow transported from the Preseli Mountains in Wales, which are about fifty kilometres away. Scholars believe that Stonehenge was a temple that may have reflected the eternal, cyclical movements of the sun, moon, and stars across the heavens.
A Dolmen today is just a remnant of a burial monument. The gigantic rocks were originally out of sight under a mound of sand or earth. Discoveries have revealed that the Dolmen was a communal burial tomb. They would contain the remains of up to a hundred people, making them a virtual cemetery.
There are more numerous Dolmens in the Netherlands than anywhere else. Of the 53 Dolmens in the Netherlands, 52 of them are located in the province of Drenthe. Rather than being located haphazardly, they are carefully aligned east-west, with the entrance being on the south. This may be in relation to the seasonal positioning of the sun. The Dolmens can be found in some of the most scenic areas of Holland. In fact, famous painter Vincent Van Gogh once said of Drenthe, “ Drenthe is so beautiful that I would rather not have seen it if I were not able to remain here forever.”
The builders of these structures used vertical supporting rocks and large capstones. The apertures between the rocks were closed up with chunks of stone. The floor was paved with stone. The largest of the Dolmens in the Netherlands is seventy feet long and consists of 47 rocks, including a capstone that is ten feet long and weighs twenty tons!
So why were the Dolmens made? That is not an easy question to answer. There is no written record of the people who made the Dolmens. As far back as 1660, however, speculation and study of the Dolmens led to various conclusions. At that time residents of the Drenthe area believed that giants made the Dolmens. But it wasn’t until 1912 that several Dolmens were thoroughly examined by experts. They found potsherds (pottery fragments), flint axheads and arrowheads as well as ornaments like amber beads in the vicinity of the Dolmens. There were, however, very few skeletal remains, as these were poorly preserved in the sandy soil. At some sites as many as six hundred pottery fragments were found, indicating that as many as two hundred people may have been buried there. When buried two or three vessels of food were placed next to the body.
Scientists claim that the Dolmens were built with erratic boulders taken from Scandinavia. One theory is that these were transported by glaciers during a primeval ice age. It is also believed that the builders were farmers who belonged to what is known as the ‘Funnel Beaker’ culture, named for the funnel beaked vessels that have been unearthed.
Just how were the massive structures built? One theory states that the heavy rocks were placed on wooden rollers and pulled with the aid of leather traces. To move the animals upward, it is believed that a ramp of sand and clay was built. Experts are not sure just how this was done, however. As to why the dead were not simply buried in the normal manner, there is no answer. Likewise the beliefs that these people had regarding life after death, and the reason that artifacts were placed in the graves alongside the bodies, are things that researchers can only guess at. Neither is it possible to say with certainty just when the Dolmens were constructed.