Recommended Reading:

Connolly, Michael, Stone, Bone and Belonging. The early Neolithic Portal Tombs at Killaclohane, County Kerry, Kerry County Council (2021)

This book is on sale at Kerry County Museum and can be ordered and shipped worldwide. Please contact or call 00353-66-7127777 to purchase your copy.

Further Reading:

Compact Oxford English Dictionary for Students, Oxford Press (2006)

Harari, Yuval Noah, Sapiens. A brief history of Humankind, Harper (2014)

Hodges, Henry, Artifacts. An introduction to early materials and technology, Duckworth (2000)

Ryan, Michael, Irish Archaeology Illustrated, Dublin: Town House and Country House (1991)

Twohig, Elizabeth Shee, Irish Megalithic Tombs, Shire Publications (2004)

Waddell, John, The Prehistoric Archaeology of Ireland (1991)




Antler: A natural material often used by ancient cultures. It can be made soft by prolonged soaking in water, after which its carving becomes a comparatively simple matter

Archaeological site: A place where human activity occurred and material remains were deposited (buried)

Archaeologist: Someone who studies the past using archaeological methods in order to record, interpret and understand past societies and environments

Archaeology: Literally, ‘the study of ancient things’. Archaeology is the study of the human past through the excavation of sites and the analysis of objects

Arrow head: Stone tip mounted at the end of a wooden arrow shaft. Three arrow heads were found during the excavation of Killaclohane Portal Tomb

Artefact: A man-made object. Human remains are also classified as artefacts when found during an archaeological excavation

Burial chamber: See Chamber

Burial practice: The ritualized manner in which a community buries their dead

Cairn: A deliberately constructed mound of earth and stone heaped up to cover a tomb structure

Capstone: A large horizontal slab of stone forming the top of a chambered tomb. The Killaclohane capstone weighs 13.5 tonnes, more than two large male elephants

Chamber: A general term covering a wide range of generally stone-built tombs in which one or more cells or chambers were used to receive successive burials over a period of time

Conservation: A philosophy underpinning approaches to the management of environmental and archaeological resources. In a museum context it mainly refers to the practice of halting the physical, chemical or biological decay of objects

Conserving: In an archaeological context it means to protect artefacts from harm or destruction

Court tomb: One of four main types of megalithic tombs found in Ireland. The generic name refers to features specific to this particular type of tomb

Cremation: The practice of burning the dead prior to burial

Cultivation of crops: The production and reproduction of plants as sources of food and raw materials for human benefit. As a result, dependence on hunting and gathering was reduced

Digital Terrain Model: A topographic model of the bare earth – terrain relief – that can be manipulated by computer programmes

DNA Testing: DNA, short for deoxyribonculer acid, is the carrier of genetic information. By analyzing ancient DNA it is possible to find out about gender, hair colour, skin type, blood type and even family connections

Domestication of animals: The production and reproduction of animals as sources of food and raw materials by early farmers. As a result, dependence on hunting and gathering was reduced

Excavation: One of the principle means by which archaeological data is captured and recorded. Even though excavations are destructive by nature, the site and its finds are preserved by record

Experimental archaeology: A hands-on approach to archaeology which involves the replication of objects, buildings, activities and contexts from the past using only the materials and techniques that would have been used back then

Flint: A hard brittle siliceous rock that fractures readily. Flint is highly suitable for the manufacture of edged tools by flaking or knapping

Folklore: The traditional beliefs, customs and stories of a community, passed through the generations by word of mouth

Foundation: The lowest part of a building or structure, typically below ground level

Funerary monuments: A general term covering structures built to house the dead

Geophysical survey: Collection of information associated with subsurface features. Archaeologists often use the information they collect to detect and map subsurface features without having to do any destructive or unproductive excavating

Geo-textile membrane: Permeable fabrics which, when used in association with soil, have the ability to separate, filter, reinforce, protect or drain

Grave goods: Pottery and other artefacts placed with the dead at time of burial

Grid: A square frame, typically 1m by 1m internally, that is used on archaeological sites to assist with accurately planning features, objects, or structures. It is also called a planning frame

Hunter-gatherers: A general term used to refer to societies whose mode of subsistence is gained from hunting animals, fishing, and gathering edible plants

Inhumation: The name given to the burial custom by which the body was laid unburned in a grave

Isotope Analysis: A new scientific method of measuring the element strontium (Sr) present in bone and tooth enamel to find out where a person was born and whether they migrated between childhood and death. Humans and other animals absorb strontium through the water and plant food they consume, creating a chemical signature of the local geology within their bodies

LiDAR: By scanning the landscape with an airborne laser and receiver, the locations of ancient structures, houses and roadways hidden beneath the modern landscape can be revealed

Mass Rock: A large flat rock used as an outdoor altar by Irish Catholics in the past when the open celebration of mass was illegal

Medieval: Relating to the Middle Ages, roughly spanning 1000 years in-between the end of the Roman Empire and the Reformation, approx. 500 – 1500 AD

Megalithic tomb: A general term applied to chambered stone tombs in which massive block were used to create the walls and roof of passage and chambers

Monument: In common usage the term refers to any large artificial structure of archaeological interest

Neolithic: A period in prehistory defined by the occurrence of polished stone tools, pottery and the beginnings of farming. Killaclohane Portal tomb was built during the Neolithic period, around 3,800 BC

Ogham Stone: Dating from the late 4th to the early 8th century, ogham stones mark the transition from an illiterate pagan society to a literate Christian one, straddling the prehistoric/historic divide. The ogham script is the earliest form of writing in Ireland and is the earliest recorded form of the Irish language.

Osteo-Archaeology: A branch of archaeology that deals with the study and analysis of human and animal anatomy, especially skeletal remains and teeth

Packing stone: Small stones used to stabilize the base of larger upright stones

Pad stone: A flat slab of stone placed on the ground to provide support for a structure

Passage tomb: One of four main types of megalithic tombs found in Ireland. The generic name refers to features specific to this particular type of tomb, i.e. a long, narrow passage leading to the burial chamber. Only one Passage tomb has been identified in County Kerry to date

Planning: Using a small- scale map that records in the form of a drawing the disposition and arrangements of visible features and items within a site or excavation trench projected as a horizontal plane

Portal tomb: One of four main types of megalithic tombs found in Ireland. The generic name refers to features specific to this particular type of tomb, i.e. a large capstone resting on two large portal stones. Killaclohane Portal tomb is the only positively identified portal tomb in County Kerry to date

Portal stone: Tall upright stone on each side of a tomb entrance, particularly in portal tombs

Prehistory: Generally refers to the time before written records

Quartz: Opaque white crystalline silicate stone found in many parts of the world and variously used for tool making and in ceremonial contexts.

Quern stone: A hand-operated device used for grinding corn to produce flour

Radiocarbon dating: A technique for determining the absolute date of organic matter based on the fact that all living organisms contain a small but constant proportion of the radioactive isotope of carbon (C14)

Recording: A systematic and structured set of procedures for creating a record of archaeological excavations or field work

Scotia’s Glen: A partially wooded valley situated in the eastern foothills of the Slieve Mish south of Tralee. According to folklore, the battle of Sliabh Mish was fought whereby Scotia, the Queen of the Milesians, died and was buried in the Glen

Scraper: A distinctive kind of flint or stone tool comprising of a roughly round or horseshoe–shaped flake shaped deliberately with an extreme oblique angle to provide a working edge around some or all of the circumference. Two scrapers were found during the excavation of Killaclohane Portal Tomb

Settlement: An area of habitation comprising of dwellings and associated private and communal facilities

Socket: A natural or artificialhollow into which something fits or in which something revolves

Spearhead: A pointed and sharp thrusting blade from mounting on the end of a long shaft for use as a weapon in hunting or warfare. One flint spearhead was found during the excavation of Killaclohane Portal Tomb

Wedge Tomb: One of four main types of megalithic tombs found in Ireland. The generic name refers to features specific to this particular type of tomb, i.e. its shape. Wedge tombs are the dominant type of megalithic tomb in County Kerry

Wet sieving – Process of recovering finds from excavated archaeological deposits by passing them through one or more screens or sieves either suspended in water or washed through with running water

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