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Some of the damage to the tomb Ken Williams

Ancient passage tomb in Sligo vandalised with words and symbols scratched into stones

The images and words scratched into the millennia-old stone tomb included spirals and the names of Norse and Greek gods.

AN ANCIENT NEOLITHIC passage tomb in county Sligo has been vandalised with words and spirals scratched into the stones. 

The damage to one of the Carrowkeel passage tombs, which are around 5,300 years old, was discovered by photographer and prehistoric archeology researcher Ken Williams yesterday afternoon.

He had just attended a conference of the Sligo Neolithic Group, where experts and enthusiasts discussed the nomination of the Carrowkeel site as a World Heritage Site. 

While visiting the tombs, he came across the scratchings on the interior walls of the farthest tomb from the site’s entrance. 

Carrowkeel passage tomb 3 The passage tomb vandalised at Carrowkeel Ken Williams Ken Williams

“They (the group) did a tour there in the morning, and I went up in the evening. They didn’t go into the passage tomb that I found this in because it’s the furthest one away, and it’s actually really awkward to get to. 

“You have to crawl in on your hands in knees and it’s wet and dirty. So it’s horrible crawl into it.”

He said that a stone which formed the entrance to a cairn had also been knocked over. 

Carrowkeel passage tomb 4 Spirals scratched into the stone at the passage tomb Ken Williams Ken Williams

“I mean, you’re not going to just ramble in. You’d have to know that it is a passage tomb and that you really wanted to go inside. So whoever did this seems to have gone there deliberately to do it,” he said. 

“It seems like it’s definitely a deliberate attack as far as I can see.

“It’s not the kind of case you just kind of wander and come across it, you know, without knowing what it is. It’s at the end of a dead end and you have to hike up to it. So I don’t think you could go there and not know how significant they are. So it seems to be quite targeted.”

Carrowkeel passage tomb 2 A spiral scratched into the stone at the passage tomb Ken Williams Ken Williams

“It’s this kind of Latin stuff and Odin and Zeus and this kind of thing. So I don’t know if it’s some kind of occult thing or what, or pagan or something. I’m not sure. I’m not very familiar with all that kind of thing.

“But that’s kind of what it looks like. And then there’s big spirals and kind of scribbled circles and all sorts of stuff, covering the whole face of the stone.” 

Williams says the vandalism looks to have been done recently.

“It seems to be extremely recent. You could actually see this kind of dust that comes up when they’re scraping it. And that’s still on some of the carvings there so it looks like it was done either in the last couple of weeks or even yesterday, before I even got there.”

Williams said he has contacted the Gardaí and the National Monuments Service about the damage and asked for anyone with information to share it with gardaí. 

Deliberate damage done to historic sites in Ireland has become something of a trend recently, said Williams, who believes vandalism saw an uptick during Covid lockdowns, when people were restricted to a 5km radius around their homes. 

There have been incidents since then as well. In August, the Deer Stone in Glendalough was found damaged by fire.

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