Poulawack Cairn
At a Glance
County Clare
OS Map 51
OS Coordinate R 233 985
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Poulawack Cairn, Co. Clare

Poulawack: Carn Pholl an Bhaic "hole/cave of the angle/bend"

Location: Poulawack Cairn is located just west off the R480 road from Leameneh to Ballyvaughan. As with many other Burren sites, there are scant visitor facilities available, even roadside parking spaces are very limited. Once parked, follow the sign that points uphill. Depending on the time of year, the path could be very faint and a small wall must be crossed over. The initial hillside is very steep and the grasses make it quite slippery. Good hiking boots are invaluable. Once this hill is scaled, there is at least one more stone wall that must be hurdled. Again, the path must be watched for. Once on a more or less level plateau, the cairn can more easily be seen in the distance, and aside from the Burren's famous karst landscape of grykes (furrows) and clints (rectangular sheets of limestone), the rest of the trek is relatively easy.

Description: Poulawack is an early bronze age (c. 1900 B.C.) cairn. Before excavation, this round cairn measured 20.75m N/S and 21.25m E/W. Under it were found two concentric kerbs or revetments. 10 graves were found within the revetments. The cairn material which had consisted in the main of Limestone slabs had been carefully laid and it was evident in a change in orientation in the stones that a considerable part of the upper levels of the cairn had been disturbed in the course of a secondary intrusion of a number of cist graves. A hollow scraper, a boar's tusk, an oyster shell, and some bronze-age potscherds accompanied the burials.

The multiple cist cairn at Poulawack in the south-central Burren is one of the best examples of the burial structure which succeeded the Megalithic tombs of the Neolithic. Excavated by a Harvard team in 1935, the remains of sixteen people interred in ten separate graves were found here, very few of which showed signs of cremation, indicating Bronze Age origin, a period when unburnt burials were quite common. Radiocarbon dating revealed that there were three main phases of activity: the mid-fourth, early second and late second millennia BC. Much of the land in this area is private property so great care must be taken and the landowners wishes and rights must be respected.

Comments: If we had known just what an effort it was going to be to get to this cairn, we're not certain we would have begun the trek. Nevertheless, once there, it was interesting and amusing. The cairn itself is interesting, though I would have expected it to be in a better state of preservation after excavation. It looks rather caved-in in some places. There are semi-circular stone structures to either side of the cairn. I was told that these were wind shelters for shepherds from either the 18th or 19th century (this is where old age and memory part). The amusing bit was in the vast limestone field to the side of the cairn. This is where visitors have utilized the loose limestone sheets to form their own whimsical monuments. I still have mixed feelings between admiration for other people's creativity versus a possible form of vandalism.

  © 2005 F.J. & K.D. Schorr - All rights reserved.