Wedge Tombs belong to the Bronze Age, starting about 2500BC. Of the 115 examples known in Cork, 12 occur on the Mizen, of which the best known is Altar (below).
All wedge tombs share the same basic wedge shape – broader and taller at the western end, which is assumed to be the entrance. All are oriented towards the western sky. To refresh yourself on the essentials of wedge tombs, take a quick read of my post Wedge Tombs: Last of the Megaliths, and then come back here.
For my series Mizen Megaliths, we are trying to visit all the megaliths of the Mizen Peninsula (like our closest one at Kilbronoge, above), so today, I want to concentrate on two we visited this year, both of which are incorporated into field boundaries, Cappaghnacallee and Ballydivlin.
Cappaghnacallee – the name is interesting, the tillage field of the Cailleach. The Cailleach was the wise woman, the Hag of Irish mythology, the bringer of winter, the veiled one. Many placenames include a reference to her, including the largest and most impressive of the Cork wedge tombs, Labbacallee, the Bed of the Cailleach: here’s Robert’s post on this most impressive monument.
It is possible that the presence of the wedge tomb in this townland is the origin of the place name Cappaghnacallee. But if it was once an important local site, the focus of legend and ritual, it’s not easy to recapture that sense of it now. It’s hard to find, hidden in a field boundary (above), overgrown with brambles and long grass. We visited in 2015 and again this year and it’s more overgrown now.
Once you do find it, it is recognisable as a wedge tomb. Here’s what the National Monuments record says about it, and I couldn’t put it better myself.
The monument, incorporated in a stone field wall, consists of a gallery. . . aligned NE-SW. The W end of the monument has collapsed and is obscured by the roofstone and field-clearance material. The S side forms part of the field wall and is represented by three stones that rise in height to the W. Only the E stone of the N side survives and there is no evidence for a backstone. The roofstone. . . rests on the two opposing sidestones forming the E end of the gallery and slopes downwards to the entrance area where it is covered by field-clearance material. The monument appears to have collapsed in antiquity as there is a layer of peat on top of the roofstone below the field-clearance material.https://maps.archaeology.ie/HistoricEnvironment/
There are views from the site down to Roaringwater Bay, but also to Mount Gabriel (below). We are constantly amazed when we visit prehistoric sites to find that Mount Gabriel is in view and are more and more convinced that it was a sacred mountain.
The second Mizen wedge tomb I’m including in this post is in Ballydivlin, not far from Goleen. Once again, this is a partially collapsed tomb, perhaps in slightly better shape than Cappaghnacallee, but the similarities of situation are striking. Like Cappaghnacallee, this wedge tomb is incorporated into a field boundary or hedge (although locally it would likely be called a ‘ditch.’
Here’s the NM description:
Tomb incorporated in fence; gallery. . . aligned NE-SW. Three erect sidestones on N side; one erect stone, one fallen sidestone on S; backstone visible at E end and another stone closes W end gallery. Stone partly covering W end gallery may be displaced roofstone. No indications of surrounding mound.
This wedge tomb is situated in such a way that it has views of both Mount Gabriel (below) to the east , Mizen Peak (the pyramid-shaped mountain that is the focus of the Altar Wedge orientation) to the west and, in the nearer distance, of Knockaphuca to the north. There are also clear views across the sea to Cape Clear (above).
Setting out to find these obscure wedge tombs is a great way to spend a day on the Mizen. We did it in the winter, when undergrowth is not so luxurious and the ground is hard underfoot, and were blessed with fine weather each time.
We were also blessed with a fine bull at Ballydivlin – fortunately one field over and more interested in his cows that in us.