Cashtal yn Ard near Cornaa on the Isle of Man

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Isle of Man

The neolithic burial chamber of Cashtal yn Ard (“Castle of the Heights”) stands in the parish of Maughold in the east of the Isle of Man. Its position on a hill gives it a splendid view over the sea to the Lake District. The cairn was excavated in 1930 and again in 1999. In 1980 the tomb appeared on an Isle of Man postage stamp.

Cashtal yn Ard is one of three neolithic graves dating from around 2000 BC. It is one of the best preserved megalithic monuments on the island and one of the best of its kind in the British Isles.

The monument was originally a megalithic cairn (a large pile of stones intended as a monument or an orientation point) with five chambers. The site is veiled in mystery and mythology because the discovery of the strange structure made of stone slabs was never described. However, some people believe that it may have been used as a communal burial place by neolithic tribal chiefs and their families.

In a document from 1795 this monument was named as Cashtal y mucklagh y vagileragh (the castle of the field pigsty). This might mean that the forecourt of the grave was used as a place for breeding pigs.

Foto Chris Gunns / Cashtel yn Ard

The grave consists of an open forecourt in the west leading to five stone chambers in the east. The forecourt measures 6.7 x 5.8 metres and has been restored. It consists of large stones, the largest being 2.3 m high. The stone chambers on thee ast side are divided by lateral standing stone slabs. The highest of the stones forming the chambers is 1 metre, from which the other stones reduce in size and diameter to the east. The average width of each chamber is 1.2 metres.

The grave was first described at the beginning of the 19th century, at which time much of it was still intact. The most important part of the cairn was damaged towards the middle of the 19th century when a number of the stone slabs forming the 1.2 m high rectangular grave were removed for use in building the nearby houses. As a result, the five smaller chambers were exposed.

The site was first excavated in 1880. In 1930 a more scientific examination was carried out by the archaeologists H. J. Fleure and G. J. H. Neely. A geophysical examination followed in 1999. The first excavation revealed bone fragments of a young person and pieces of two different urns. No bones were found during the later excavation in 1930, perhaps because other human remains had been removed during previous disturbances. However, flints and shards of neolithic pottery were discovered.

Text Aaldert Slot

Translation Alun Harvey

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