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County Tyrone
OS Map 13
OS Coordinate H 685 842
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Beaghmore, Co. Tyrone

Location: Beaghmore Stone Circles are located about 17 kilometers north west of Cookstown County Tyrone, on the south-east perimeter of the Sperrin Mountains. From Cookstown, take A 505 west for approximately 10 kilometers. At the 2nd turn for Dunnamore, turn right. Follow this road and/or signposts to the circles just over a semi-isolated ridge of bogland on the left. There is a reasonably large carpark at the entrance to the site.

Dimensions: This is a complex consisting of ancient field walls, 2 pairs of stone circles with associated alignments, a single circle and at least 12 cairns, some of which are associated with the circles. The stones forming the circles are on average 0.3-0.6m high. The largest circle, circle E is the only single circle and also has the tallest stones, one 1.2m high and the rest approximately 0.9m high. It encircles a round cairn and the rest of its interior is completely filled with close set stones known as "the dragons' teeth". Each of the main circle units has at least one stone alignment running from it, all aligned NE/SW. All 12 cairns had kerbs of small boulders and most contained cremated bones. Cairn 1 (between circles A & B) had a central cist in which a porcellanite axe head was found. Radiocarbon dates from the site place it at the earliest part of the Bronze Age, about 2000BC - 1200 BC. The ancient field walls are assumed to be earlier, as several of the alignments were built through and above them.

Circle A - H 68509 84245 Diameter 11 x 11.6m

Circle B - H 68500 84257 Diameter 10.2 x 9.8m

A small cairn (1) separates the two circles with A at the south, and B at the north. Four stone rows radiate from the cairn in a narrow fan shape; a long row of 34 low stones at the north, a short tall row of 4 stones, a row of 14 medium height stones, and finally a short low row at the south, also with 14 stones. Both circles are misshapen and are comprised of small, closely-set stones.

Circle C - H 68481 84239 Diameter 18.4 x 16.4m

Circle D - H 68465 84233 Diameter 15.6 x 16.8m

The biggest of the circle pairs, C and D are also the most misshapen, with the grossly distorted C looking more like a trapezoid than a circle. A cairn adjoins them where the cirles almost meet to the north. This cairn contained an empty kist. Circle C was found to contain Neolithic deposits of charcoal, flints and pottery fragments. Two well preserved rows; a row of four tall stones and a very long row of 49 small stones run from the cairn.

Circle E - H 68445 84255 Diameter 17 x 19m

The only circle without a partner, circle E (slightly to the northwest of C & D) is also misshapen into an egg shape along the E-W axis. The outer ring of stones is comprised of larger stones than the other rings for the most part (there are lower stones interspersed between some of the larger ones). Covering the entire surface of the interior of this circle are small upright stones These small stones are referred to as "the dragon's teeth". with one semi-large standing stone close to the center of this blanket of smaller stones. Internally at the southeast edge of the circle is a small cairn (6) from which two stone alignments radiate, one to the east of 38 small stones (beside which is another small stone cairn) and one to the southeast of eight small stones. A small cairn beside the long stone alignment here has it's own NW-SE alignment of three stones graduating in size. Excavation of cairn 6 yielded a corbelled kist, with cremains, moss and twigs. Atop the roofstone of the kist were cremated fragments of a human skull. Between the two long stone rows of small stones at circles C & D and circle E is another very small cairn.

The largest cairn visible at the site, cairn 7, is a few meters south of circle E. This was found to contain a central pit containing an oak branch.

Circle F - H 68441 84175 Diameter 7.6 x 8 m

Circle G - H 68431 84182 Diameter 8.7 x 8.6m

Circles F and G are the smallest of the stone circles and also have the most interesting cairn. Cairn 10 is surrounded by a ditch and external bank, giving it a striking appearance. The cairn itself was originally capped with clay and was found to contain an empty kist. A single long row of 36 small stones radiates from the cairn to the NE, passing between circles F and G and then over the remains of a neolithic field wall. The rings are the usual closely packed arrangement of small stones, with F at the SW being the most distorted of the two. Circle G has the unusual feature of an entrance, this stands at the SE and is marked by two stones much larger than the other circle stones. The entrance feature is an early trait and may suggest that these rings were amongst the first to be built at the site.

Features: A total of seven circles, six of which are paired, were discovered, along with many cairns, four of which have associated stone rows. A typical feature of the Beaghmore stone rows is a "high and low" arrangement where short rows of tall stones run beside much longer rows of small stones. Most of the stones are less standing stones with their bases sunk in the ground than small boulders placed ON the ground. Because not all of the cairns contained burials or anything of archaeological significance, speculation is that they were either a sort of field clearance or stored in these piles for possible future use.

Comments: WOW. Mother Lode! This site proves that size isn't necessarily all-important to make an impression. The longer one stays, the more one observes. It is a very windblown place, so be sure to dress warmly. The rows of shrubs mark the places where the neolithic field walls break ground or come close to the surface. This site is extremely well maintained. Ordinarily I am against the use of weed killer on vegetation, but it's put to good use here enabling us to see to ground level, which is important where small stones are concerned.

History: Beaghmore, "the moor of the birches", was discovered during peat cutting in the 1930's by George Barnett of the Six Towns. First excavated in 1945-9 by A. McL. May of Coleraine, 1269 stones were uncovered, having been buried in the thick layer of peat that is a dominating feature of this area. Further work in 1965 revealed more of the complex, although it is almost certain that further structures still lie buried in the surrounding bog. The circles and rows we see at the site today are thought to date from about 1600 BC, the early Bronze Age, but they are not the earliest evidence of usage of the site. Hearths and deposits of flint tools were discovered and have been carbon dated to 2900-2600BC, in addition, several of the stone rows run over the tumbled walls of field structures which also date from the Neolithic period. Following excavation it was necessary to lay a system of drainage channels to prevent the monument from being reclaimed once again by the bog.

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