Annagh-Killadangan Archaeological Complex
One notable Bronze Age settlement is located on the shore of Clew Bay, near the base of Croagh Patrick in a place called Murrisk, Co. Mayo. This location however, is not directly situated on the Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail. At first glance, it simply consists of five large stones laying in a line (Michigan State University, 2009). While the function of these stones is largely still a mystery, archaeologists suggest that they could be territorial markers, or markers of Bronze Age burial sites or markers of important lunar or solar activity. One important and recognised theory is that the stones mark the Winter Solstice (December 21st). While going from North to South, the height of these stones increases, drawing onlooking eyes up to a niche on the side of Croagh Patrick. At approx. 1:50 pm on the 21st of December the sun descends into this niche, in line directly with the row of 5 stones (Mayo Ireland, 2019). The fifth stone is no longer standing, but has fallen—however it probably pointed towards the Reek. The five stones stand within a broader enclosure which also included a cooking area probably from the Bronze Age—with the suggestion being that it was a significant ceremonial site at one point (Michigan State University, 2009).
Local Tales Aiming to Explain the Site’s Purpose
A folk story surrounding the archaeological site tells of the King of Killadangan, who was brother of Queen Maeve’s first husband—Queen Maeve being the warrior Queen of Connacht (Michigan State University, 2009), (Sligo Walks, n.d). It is said that the king’s name has since been forgotten, however the name of his servant, ‘Thulera,’ remains. In an attempt to gain control over the tide and the sea and put it under his command (Michigan State University, 2009), the king sent his lazy servant to the stones in order to see if the tide had come in (Mayo Ireland, 2019), however Thulera fell asleep which meant that the king had to fight a single- handed battle against the sea. As the folk tale goes—the king’s efforts failed, and both the lazy servant and the king drowned (Michigan State University, 2009). Apparently, the story of the king aims to explain “the encroachment of the sea into the area around the standing stone monuments” (Corlett, 1998, p 136). Another folk tale aiming to explain the site’s function says that the ashes of Firbolg leaders lie beneath the stones in urns (Corlett, 1998, p 136). The Annagh Killadangan site is typically accessible the whole year round—with the possible exception of Spring, when tides can submerge the site (Mayo Ireland, 2019).
Corlett, C. (1998). A Survey of the Standing Stone Complex at Killadangan, County Mayo. Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society. Vol. 50. pp 135-150 [Online]. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/25550200#metadata_info_tab_contents [Accessed 6th of January, 2023].
Mayo Ireland, (2019). Clew Bay Archaeological Trail. Available at: https://www.mayo-ireland.ie/en/about-mayo/archaeology/clew-bay-archeological-trail/stage-2-murrisk.html (Accessed 6th of January, 2023)
Michigan State University, Study Abroad Programme. (2009) Annagh-Killadangan Archaeological Complex. Internal Report: Folder 4, Croagh Patrick Heritage Trail—Clogher Environmental Group Ltd. Unpublished.
Sligo Walks, (Date Unknown). Queen Maeve Trail—Knocknarea. Available at: https://sligowalks.ie/walks/qmt/ (Accessed 10th of January, 2023).