Museum Goes Megalithic

05 May 2011

Museum Goes MegalithicDown County Museum has unveiled a new exhibition about the Megalithic tombs and stone circles of Northern Ireland created with the help of Downpatrick Young Archaeologists’ Club, who also wrote a booklet entitled Mega-Megaliths, charting their visits to important sites such as the 5000 year-old Legananny Dolmen, the Giant’s Ring Passage Tomb, Newgrange Passage Tomb and Ballynoe Stone Circle during 2010.

The Club made a special expedition last year to Co Tyrone to visit the passage tomb at Knockmany, where they saw the amazing 5000 year-old carvings similar to those found at Newgrange and Knowth in Co Meath. Afterwards a visit was also made to Beaghmore Stone Circles, where one of the circles is known as the ‘Dragon’s Teeth’ because it encircles over 900 stones. Another trip was to Tirnony Portal Tomb or Dolmen, where the Young Archaeologists were able to take part in an archaeological excavation with the help of the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork based at Queen’s University– and some of them made some amazing finds, including prehistoric flints and pottery, and they saw some of the other finds including a blue glass bead dating back to the time of St Patrick!

Nearer to home the Club visited Legananny Dolmen and the nearby 1000-year-old souterrain at Finnis, where it is possible to get inside an underground storage tunnel over 30m long. There was another souterrain at the passage tomb at Knowth, which has the largest collection of megalithic art in the world. Inside the passage tomb at Newgrange, the guides turned off the lights and then demonstrated what it is like at the winter solstice on 21st December, when the sun shines directly down the passage into the inner chamber.

The Megaliths project is the second major project completed by the Young Archaeologists, as they took part in a year of visits around Strangford Lough in 2008-9, and launched a booklet entitled ‘Uncovering Strangford Lough’s Archaeology’ in association with the Strangford Lough Committee’s ‘Turn o’ the Tides’ project. Both the Strangford Lough and Mega-Megaliths booklets are available free from Down County Museum, and membership application forms are also available on request.

The Downpatrick Young Archaeologists’ Club has been based at Down County Museum since 2002, and has had over 250 members aged between 8 and 16 over the last 9 years. The Club meets at least 10 times a year, and organises trips to archaeological and historical sites in County Down and beyond. Membership is only £15 for a year’s membership.
A major visit to archaeological sites is planned for 1st July this year, for which there will be an additional cost – further details are available from the Museum.

The exhibition and children’s booklet have been funded by the PEACE III Programme managed by the Special EU Programmes Body and delivered by the North Down, Ards and Down Council cluster, who have also supported translations for Polish people with the help of a special link with the National Archaeological Museum in Warsaw. The Downpatrick Young Archaeologists’ Club hopes to make a link with a similar Club just outside Warsaw with the help of this Museum and launch a joint project examining forts and castles in N Ireland and Poland in 2011.
For more details, contact the Museum on 028 44615218.