Aghmakane : Portal Tomb

CountyArmagh
Grid RefJ 020 252
GPSJ 02045 25244 (7m)
Longitude6° 26' 14.74" W
Latitude54° 9' 57.45" N
ITM east480366
ITM north584435
Nearest TownNewry (6.9 Km)
OS Sheet29
UTM zone29U
UTM x449041
UTM y5761192

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Aghmakane - Stone Fort
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Visit Notes

Sunday, 5th February 2006

This is a truly enigmatic site. There is not much of the portal tomb left, just one complete portal stone, the full height doorstone and the other portal stone, which is broken. The odd/great thing about this monument is that a cashel built right up against it. Why was the tomb left partially intact? Was it a status symbol?

One thing is for sure, with its 3m tall portal stones and doorstone this would have been a very, very impressive structure when it was complete. It is impossible to say which side was the front, but the alignment was east-west. Most portal tombs face east, but judging by the relationship of the doorstone to the remaining portal stone I would say that this one could have faced west.

The tomb is dominated to the east by Camlough Mountain, to the west Courtney Mountain and to the northwest by Sugarloaf Hill and Sturgan Mountain. A stream 100m to the north runs down into Cam Lough below Camlough Mountain.

Portal tombs are what most people wrongly refer to as dolmens. They are, to me at least, the most strikingly designed of the megalithic tombs. They are called portal tombs because they have two large upright stones, usually very well matched, in front of the chamber that seem to form a doorway.

Resting upon the portal stones and the chamber a large capstone rests (sometimes there are two capstones - see Knockeen (County Waterford)), usually at an angle of around 22 degrees from the horizontal. Although these were originally incorporated into one end of a long cairn there are none left in this state today, although traces of the cairn can sometimes be seen upon the ground. The portal stones can be up to 3.5m tall, which combined with a thick capstone can produce an imposing monument over 5m tall. Capstones can reach in excess of 70 tonnes, with that of Browne's Hill (County Carlow) being estimated at over 120 tonnes.


Often betwen the portal stones there is a door slab, blocking the width of the entrance, but not always the full height. Door slabs are either half height, three quarter height or full height, describing the amount of the portal that they obstruct. All portal tombs would have had door slab, but this has often been removed to facilitate entry into the chamber.

Quite rarely the portal stones are the same height as the chamber and the characteristic slope of the capstone is created by the profile of the capstone (see Glendruid (County Dublin)).

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About Coordinates Displayed

This is an explanation of (and a bit of a disclaimer for) the coordinates I provide.

Where a GPS figure is given this is the master for all other coordinates. According to my Garmin these are quite accurate.

Where there is no GPS figure the 6 figure grid reference is master for the others. This may not be very accurate as it could have come from the OS maps and could have been read by eye. Consequently, all other cordinates are going to have inaccuracies.

The calculation of Longitude and Latitude uses an algorithm that is not 100% accurate. The long/lat figures are used as a basis for calculating the UTM & ITM coordinates. Consequently, UTM & ITM coordinates are slightly out.

UTM is a global coordinate system - Universal Transverse Mercator - that is at the core of the GPS system.

ITM is the new coordinate system - Irish Transverse Mercator - that is more accurate and more GPS friendly than the Irish Grid Reference system. This will be used on the next generation of Irish OS maps.

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