Find on Achill may be prehistoric tomb


Student archaeologists who are about to conclude their excavations for the season at the Deserted Village on Achill Island, Co Mayo, believe a mystery underground stone chamber found on the site is a prehistoric tomb.

Teresa McDonald, director of the Achill Archaeological Field School, describes the chamber as "an enigma". She explained: "The chamber's walls and roof of massive boulders have puzzled all the archaeologists that have seen it".

According to Ms McDonald, the soil through which the pit was dug contained prehistoric tools, probably of late Neolithic date, made by farmers some 4,000 years ago. While this does not conclusively date the chamber, it strengthens the evidence for it being a prehistoric tomb.

Excavations at House 23 on the site have revealed a built-in fireplace, a stone bench and a drain for cattle manure. Also unearthed was Scottish-made domestic pottery, mostly tableware and glass bottles, which would have held medicines and alcohol. These would have been used by the occupants and broken and discarded in the 18th and 19th centuries.

"Such evidence helps us to flesh out the villagers' lifestyles in a way which historic documents cannot", excavation director Audrey Horning said.

An open day is to be held at the site tomorrow from 11am to 3pm, weather permitting.