2014:085 - Keel East, Mayo

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Mayo Site name: Keel East

Sites and Monuments Record No.: MA042-021002 & MA042-021003 Licence number: 14E0109

Author: Stuart Rathbone for Achill Archaeological Field School

Site type: Possible prehistoric enclosure

ITM: E 465012m, N 808593m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 54.008889, -10.059444

The ‘Cromlech Tumulus’ site in Keel East, Achill Island, Co Mayo, was partially excavated by the staff and students of Achill Archaeological Field School during the summer of 2014. The site is listed on the Mayo sites and monuments record as 'Megalithic Structure', but its actual nature has been debated since the late 19th century when Wood Martin described it as a “sepulchral complex” and suggested that at least parts of the site belonged to the megalithic tradition. Westropp and O’Kelly both described the site as a series of huts, probably of an early medieval date, whilst Pigott and Powell suggested that it was a ruined megalithic tomb with a later burial mound constructed over the western end. De Valéra and Ó Nualláin examined the site as part of the Megalithic Survey of Ireland but did not list the site as being megalithic and suggested it represented a series of post-medieval buildings.
Prior to excavation the site was subject to a detailed GPS and a topographic survey, confirming the general layout as described by Pigott and Powell. The site appeared to consist of two distinct elements, a circular mound with a central hollow at the west, and a series of small stone structures at the east. A pre-bog field wall connects the eastern end of the site to the well-known court tomb located about 130m to the east. Excavation in 2014 focused on the western half of the site. Rather than being a distinct circular mound this turned out to be the edge of a large ovoid enclosure defined by an earthen bank with inner and outer dry stone faces and a width of over 2m. The course of the enclosure was not fully traced but it must measure at least 15m by 20m. An entrance was located at the south, defined by two orthostats set into the top of the bank. Inside the enclosed space were a large number of post-holes and pits suggesting a lengthy occupation, although in the area so far examined no building ground plans have been identified. No dateable artefacts were recovered, only a small selection of coarse stone tools, but charcoal samples have been submitted for radiocarbon dating. Two very slight buildings constructed of turf and stone walls were discovered overlying the enclosure bank, the latest of which had created the impression of the circular mound with the central hollow. At this stage the site appears to be an enclosed large scale settlement site overlain by a much smaller scale period of occupation.
In addition, a single trench was excavated over the pre-bog wall that connects the ‘Cromlech Tumulus’ to the court tomb. This proved to be a simple boulder wall around 1m wide, quite different to the large and complicated Bronze Age walls excavated elsewhere on Slievemore. During 2015 excavations will examine more of the interior of the enclosure and the stone foundations visible in the eastern part of the site, and several more stretches of the pre bog wall.


de Valéra, R., & Ó Nualláin, S. 1950. The Megalithic Tombs of the Island of Achill. The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 80 (2), 199-227.

de Valéra, R., & Ó Nualláin, S. 1964. Survey of the megalithic tombs of Ireland Volume 2. County Mayo. Dublin: The Stationary Office

Herity, M.J. 1942. Unpublished account in the Topographic Files, National Museum of Ireland

Piggott, S. and Powell, T.G.E. 1947. Notes on Megalithic Tombs in Sligo and Achill. The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, 77(2), 136-146.

Westrop, T.J. 1911. Clare Island Survey: History and Archaeology. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 31 (1911-15), section 1, part 2, 1-78

Wood Martin, W.G. 1888. The Rude Stone Monuments of Ireland. On Certain Rude Stone Monuments in the Island of Achill. The Journal of the Royal Historical and Archaeological Association of Ireland 8(75), 367-381

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