Explore the Story of Ireland’s Passage Tombs  

Passage tombs are undoubtedly one of Ireland’s most iconic archaeological monument types.  Every year thousands of people visit the great tombs of the Boyne Valley – Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, or climb the hills of Loughcrew or Carrowkeel to discover these ancient places.  The tombs were constructed over 5,000 years ago, generally between 3,600–2,900 BC, during the Neolithic Period.  Passage tombs typically consist of large mounds of stone or earth that cover a burial chamber that was accessed by a stone-lined passageway, and some tombs contain complex megalithic art.  There are at least 230 known passage tombs across Ireland, and these monuments can also be found along the Atlantic seaboard of Western Europe, from the Iberian Peninsula of Spain and Portugal, Brittany in France, the Westernmost parts of Britain and Sweden.

But how and why did communities of early farmers come together to build these colossal monuments?  In this podcast, Neil had the opportunity to discuss passage tombs with Dr Jessica Smyth of UCD School of Archaeology.  We discussed Jessica’s exciting project Passage Tomb People that uses a multidisciplinary approach to better understand some of the social and economic aspects of passage tombs and to examine questions about the societies that built them.