SHU Professor Rediscovers Tomb on Dingle Peninsula

A lost 4,000-year-old tomb has been rediscovered on the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland. Dr. Billy Mag Fhloinn rediscovered the wedge tomb.

“I knew from local folk that there was something up there,” said Fhloinn. “I had heard the expression Altóir na Gréine, the alter of the sun, and it’s such an intriguing name, it’s not a usual kind of name for these places and I was slightly taken by the romance of the name and that made me curious to find it.”

He then researched to find more information about the lost tomb.

“I looked in the folklore archives from 100 years ago and they spoke about this place, and I have a friend who had some more knowledge about this antiquestrian who had visited the palace in 1838,” said Fhloinn. “We started to build up a picture of the fact that this thing was there and the fact that people had still been mentioning it, people were still talking about it and suspected that there was maybe something of it left.”

Then Fhloinn began to walk around the hill near his home trying to locate the tomb.

“I live on a hill and the hill runs from east to west all the way up to the top of a mountain, and it’s located on the spine of that hill, so if I keep going on the hill, up the spine of it towards the mountain you eventually come across the tomb,” said Fhloinn.

Once Fhloinn rediscovered the tomb, he tried to uncover why it was destroyed in the first place, which is still a mystery.

“That is the one thing that I cannot figure out, so in 1838 we had a visit and a drawing, and by 1852 it is said that it was destroyed. So why this one got broken up, I don’t know,” said Fhloinn.

Historian and Sacred Heart University Prof. John Roney has been traveling to Ireland for over 20 years. He believes that tombs and cultural heritage sites are rapidly being destroyed.

“The destruction of cultural heritage sites is rapidly increasing, because both climate change and population increase,” said Roney. “There’s 1.2 million tourists to Dingle every year and up until 1970 there were probably 400.”

Although Sacred Heart students studying abroad in Dingle haven’t had the chance to visit the rediscovered tomb yet, some students got to visit other tombs and heritage sites during the winter program.

“I took a class called Tombs Rituals and Traditions, so it was a lot of going to grave sites and it was a biology class, so it was learning about burials, and it was really interesting,” said senior Catherine Phillips.

Going to visit and see the tombs and heritage sites were her favorite parts of the class.

“I’d never felt more connected to ancestry because I have ancestry in Dingle, so it was really just a moment to feel like I was in a place where my ancestors could’ve been laid to rest or buried, so that was really nice,” said Phillips.

Every tomb and burial site are different in that not all of them are accessible to the public yet.

“We’ve got to find out whether they want tourists to come, and that’s to be determined,” said Roney.

Roney along with Fhloinn and other members of Sacred Heart faculty have created a deep mapping project and website where anyone can visit to discover the cultural heritage of the Dingle Peninsula. The website features holy wells, burial, and religious sites, and will eventually feature movie locations and coastal sites of pilgrimage, fishing, and trade.

“As you go on the website, we’ve got links to videos that people have made about it and Billy is going to go with a camera and do a 360 with maps and by having a website you can literally look at it now and say ‘oh that’s what we’re trying to find,’” said Roney.

Visit to look at the project and discover the cultural heritage of the Dingle Peninsula.

About the author

Features Editor

Leave a Reply