Friday, 18 November 2016

Brownshill Dolmen: a monumental remnant of the beginnings of modern civilisation, by Lar Dooley

Guest post by Lar Dooley

Brownshill (aka Kernanstown) Dolmen, Carlow, Ireland. A relic from our Neolithic past. I love the irony of the winter wheat just peeking above the ground, a harking back to the singular reason that Neolithic man is so close to our hearts. The first forests cleared, the first ground broken, the first crops grown and harvested.

Brownshill Dolmen, Co. Carlow. Picture © Lar Dooley.
The great seismic change in our gene pool, the change from hunter gatherer to sustained farming began a change in our lifestyle that has led to the birth of civilisation, as we know it. Suddenly man had a foothold on the Earth, one of his first tools used in cutting down forests and planting the first crops. The industrial evolution began, in reality, with the Quern, and the ability to begin to process food.

The great development of stable living and industry allied farming and subsistence living and changed our landscape forever. The first permanent dwellings, the first monuments to the gods, the first celebrations of solar and lunar alignments, the first industrial processes for milling corn and storing crops and farming output, drove us to become sedentary beings.

Brownshill Dolmen is presented with respect, and protected by a fence. Picture © Lar Dooley.

The monumental efforts required to build our Dolmens, our court tombs, our passage chambers and our great ceremonial spaces gave us the basis for religion, industry, civilisation and modern living, and yet we, or at least some of us, see Neolithic man as an ancient pagan relic, as distant from us as the great Neanderthals who emerged from the Ice Age.

Perhaps it is time we paid homage to these great people, who forever transformed our landscape, who gave us the spiritual blessings of a life well lived, who left us structures we would find difficult, if not impossible to build today, without the benefit of our great mechanical construction monsters, on which we depend today.

The cap stone of Brownshill Dolmen weighs about 150 tons. Photo © Lar Dooley.

To simply raise the capstone of this ginormous monument to early man's ingenuity, its 150-ton-plus weight, would take all of our scientific and mathematical prowess, allied to the efforts of a combined force of many human hands, and yet, here it stands, a proud, untouched advertisement to those great achievers, our ancestors.

This dolmen is one of many treated with dignity and respect. A pathway travels round the perimeter of the field, and crosses to a spacious fenced off area situated almost centrally in the pristine fields of corn. This gives the viewer an unspoilt view from both close up and afar, and brings the monument from an ancient sphere, to a modern setting, which benefits both the farmer and the viewer.

Information about the Brownshill portal tomb from the sign at the site. Picture © Lar Dooley.

Would that every ancient monument had such ease of access, and such a pristine view. However, the plodding across fields and up hills also has the beneficial aspects of monuments in unspoilt landscapes, and the benevolence of being left untouched by those for whom respect is a word rarely understood, and less venerated.

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