Mysterious structure in Cork harbor turns out to be a prehistoric tomb

(ORDO NEWS) — Forty years ago, Irish archaeologists thought that the Carraig-a-Mhaistin stone was just a whim of a wealthy but dim-witted aristocrat. However, their colleagues today have found out that this story is much older.

Not far from the village of Rostellan in the south of Ireland, in the waters of the long and winding harbor of Cork, is a group of stones called Carraig á Mhaistin.

Outwardly, it is very reminiscent of Arthur’s Stone – a Neolithic tomb in the west of England. But Irish archaeologists believed that this was a much later structure.

The fact is that in Rostellan is the estate of Murrow O’Brien, the first Marquis of Thomond. He lived in the 18th century and was known for his penchant for architectural “pranks”.

Directly in Rostellan, he built the so-called Siddons Tower, imitating a medieval defensive tower.

Therefore, when archaeologists compiled a list of prehistoric sites in Ireland 40 years ago, they considered Carraig-a-Mhaistin to be just another marquis quirk.

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Ruins of Siddon’s Tower

An archaeologist from Connemara (Ireland) Michael Gibbons (Michael Gibbons) investigated Carraig-a-Mhaistin and came to the conclusion that this is a megalithic dolmen and, most likely, a tomb.

He found a cairn next to the dolmen – a stone pile of conical shape. Usually the cairn was folded over the burial.

Gibbons believes that no one considered this obviously man-made structure in conjunction with the Carraig-a-Mhaistin megalith, since the cairn was hidden from the naked eye due to rising sea levels.

The dolmen itself is located in the intertidal zone and regularly goes under water.

The cairn is 25 meters long and 4.5 meters wide. At its western end there is a small chamber – apparently, directly burial.

Cairn is partially hidden by bottom sediments, so, according to the archaeologist, there may be several burial chambers there.

Gibbons notes that it is not known for certain when the dolmen and tomb were flooded as a result of rising sea levels. But it is believed that the water level in this part of the Cork Harbor coastline has remained stable for at least two thousand years. This may mean that they appeared before our era.

Such tombs, when a dolmen resembling a stone table was erected next to the cairn, are called in Ireland “the bed of Diarmuid and Greine.” This is a story from the Fenian cycle of Irish mythology. Historians do not have a common opinion about the dating of the earliest stories of this cycle.

It is clear that it was finally formed by the XII century – then it was recorded. But here it comes from earlier times: some scientists believe that it was not earlier than the 9th century, others that the beginning of the formation of the cycle dates back to the 3rd-4th centuries.

This is a collection of stories about Finn MacCool (another version of the name is Fingal), an Irish warrior who created the Fenian community. So in Irish myths they call the people who were part of the “Fiana Airy” – an independent military unit.

These are the first Irish mercenaries: in case of war they served the kings, and in the intervals they made their living by robberies.

The latter, for obvious reasons, did not add respect to them from the local population. Literary critics suggest that some elements of medieval ballads about Robin Hood are borrowed from the Fenian cycle.

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Diarmuid and Greine illustrated by Henry Justice Ford, English artist of the first half of the 20th century

It is generally accepted that the Fenian traditions were told by the bard Ossian, son of Finn. The central myth of the cycle is “The Persecution of Diarmuid and Greine”. Greine was the daughter of Cormac, the legendary king of Ireland in the 3rd century.

She was voluntarily-compulsorily married to Finn, who at that time was several times older than her young wife. At the wedding feast, Graine fell in love with her husband’s companion, the warrior Diarmuid.

The plot is reminiscent of the line of Guinevere and Lancelot from the Arthurian cycle. That’s just the Irish prototype of the wife of the ruler of Camelot turned out to be more decisive.

She imposed a geis (an ancient Irish vow-taboo) on the warrior she liked to take her away, which he immediately did. Finn pursued a runaway couple who, according to legend, were helped by nature: the stones themselves formed a bed for them. Hence the Irish name for dolmens, like the one in Cork harbor.


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