Sepulchral Mounds

Sepulchral Mounds, commonly called “moats” in Ireland, and “barrows” by the English antiquaries, are of a circular, or conical form, having the appearance of hillocks; and of various sizes. The interior is generally composed of a heap of small stones resembling a cairn, but covered with earth; and when opened, they are found to contain funeral urns, remains of human bones, military weapons, etc., which proves them to have been places of sepulture for kings, chiefs, and warriors, in Pagan times; for, after the introduction of Christianity, these sepulchral mounds were discontinued. This mode of burial was used by various ancient nations, as the Greeks, Gauls, Scythians, Saxons, Scandinavians, etc.; the great sepulchral mounds of Achilles and others of Homer’s heroes, still remain on the shores of the Hellespont; and Byron beautifully says—

“—I’ve stood upon Achilles’ tomb

And heard Troy doubted—time will doubt of Rome.”

The stupendous earthen mound, resembling a large hill, raised to the memory of Alvattes, king of Lydia, long before the Christian era, is still to be seen in Asia Minor; and, in the Crimea, remain some of the sepulchral mounds of the old Scythian kings. In England, these sepulchral mounds are very numerous and of great size, on Salisbury Plain, and other places; and, in Ireland, sepulchral mounds are found almost in every county, particularly in Meath, Louth, Dublin and Kildare. Along the banks of the Boyne, between Drogheda and Slane, are many mounds; but the one at Newgrange is the largest in Ireland, covering an area of about two acres, and between eighty and ninety feet in height, having the appearance of a considerable hill; and this mound was surrounded by a circle of huge stones standing upright, many of which still remain. It is stated by Ware, that the sepulchral mound at Knocksedan, near Swords in the county Dublin, was opened in his time, and in it were found the remains of a man of gigantic size: the skeleton measuring, from the ankle bone to the top of the skull, eight feet four inches: the bones of the skull were very thick, and the teeth of enormous size: the limbs were all very large in proportion, and it appears that this giant, when living, must have been nearly nine feet high. In Kildare, there are many of these mounds on the Curragh, and also at Naas; Ascul, near Athy; and at Mullaghmast.