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The passage tomb at Carrownamaddoo and Castle Dargan has been significantly damaged.
The passage tomb at Carrownamaddoo and Castle Dargan has been significantly damaged.
Image: Garda Síochána Sligo/Leitrim

'It's ransacking and desecration': Sligo passage tomb suffers significant damage in illegal excavation

Experts say the damage is “extremely worrying”.
Jul 19th 2021, 7:45 PM 63,990 31

A 5,000 YEAR-old Neolithic tomb in Co Sligo has been significantly damaged during an illegal excavation.

An inspection of the Carrownamaddoo and Castle Dargan passage tomb in Ballygawley revealed the cairn had been substantially interfered with, leaving it seriously damaged.

It follows a spate of vandalism at several ancient sites in Sligo, which experts say threatens thousands of years of heritage.

Gardaí in Sligo today issued an appeal asking anyone who notices suspicious activity around ancient sites to report it to the National Monuments Service or An Garda Síochána.

Neil Jackman, archaeologist with Abarta Heritage, said the damage is “extremely worrying” and even more concerning than graffiti vandalism done to other ancient sites in Sligo, as the monument is situated in a very remote location and isn’t well known. 

“Whoever is carrying this out needs to stop, this is not excavation, it is ransacking and desecration of a tomb and our shared heritage,” Jackman said.

It cannot even really be for personal gain, there is nothing of any monetary value in these Neolithic sites – gold and silver came centuries later.

“All there could be is small stone tools, broken fragments of pottery and human remains,” he added.

It is illegal to dig or excavate on any land for the purpose of searching generally for archaeological objects.

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The possession of metal detectors and digging at monuments and sites is also against the law, punishable with fines of up to €65,000 or up to three months imprisonment.

There are dozens of passage tombs in Co Sligo, according to the Sligo Neolithic Landscapes Group. The group is campaigning for the county’s ancient heritage to be named a World Heritage site by UNESCO.

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Céimin Burke

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