The cromlech consists of three or more unhewn stones standing on end and a large thick stone placed on top. The position of the upper stone or roof is usually sloping. Similar structures are to be found on the Continent, even in India. On the East Coast of Ireland only about 80 have been discovered. On the West Coast there are nearly 500. They are very scarce in Scotland and North of England, while they occur in West of Wales and Cornwall. This would prove that the people who erected them first settled down in the West of Ireland, and multiplied there, and in course of time some migrated to the East Coast, and thence to Wales and Cornwall.

There are several theories as to the purpose for which they were erected. The modern view is that they were sepulchral monuments. According to this view, primitive man lived in caves, and when he died his body was placed in a structure of a similar character. Human remains have been found in some of those structures. I do not regard these arguments as conclusive. Antiquarians hold that they were never covered over with earth or rubble, but left quite open as we see them at the present day, and thus human remains deposited in such places would be exposed to the weather and wild beasts, which would seem to be contrary to the instincts of humanity.

Another view is that they were altars on which sacrifice was offered. They are up to the present called Druids' altars by the peasantry. Tradition is a strong argument, and carries conviction unless refuted to actual demonstration. If the Cromlech was not a pagan altar, we have no remains of a pagan altar existing, and this is strange when we consider that the pagan Irish had stone altars, and offered sacrifice thereon. There are scattered through the country remains of pagan raths, tumuli, cairns, etc., but nothing to indicate the manner in which the pagan Irish conducted divine worship.

The Irish worshipped the Supreme Deity under the name of Crom, and Crom leach means the stone of Crom, so that we may infer it was erected for a divine purpose. Those structures are called dolmens in other countries. The word means a table of stone, a term more appropriate to an altar than to a sepulchral monument.

The top stone of many Cromlechs is estimated to weigh 100 tons and more. A vast multitude of people must have taken an interest in them, as they required many hands to place them in their present position. It is supposed the Ancient Celts had machinery, of which all knowledge is lost. There is no evidence that machinery of the kind existed. The ancient Egyptians possessed no machinery to move great monoliths. They simply employed large bodies of men trained to haul with precision. The earliest record of such work is furnished by an official of the 6th Dynasty (3350 B.C.), who relates that a monolith was brought to Memphis which required the services of 3,000 men. A record on the tomb of an official of 12th Dynasty (2622-2578 B.C.) depicts a statue or a sledge drawn by 176 men divided into four parties of 22 pairs, each party to a single hawser. A statue erected at Janis, in the North-east Delta, 92 feet high, weighing 900 tons, was brought a distance of 600 miles.

The covering stones of Cromlechs must have been placed by a large number of hands. There are several theories as to how the work was done. It is said the top stone was first placed in position and the earth removed. Another view is that the supporting stones were placed in position, a bank of earth raised, and roofing stone worked over blocks of timber placed side by side.

Read "The History of West Cork" at your leisure

Early Irish History and Antiquities, and the History of West Cork

Read The History of West Cork at your leisure and help support this free Irish library.

Enjoy this book on just about any device of your choice. Full hyperlinked contents and index have been included to make navigation easy, and the experience pleasurable.

The ebook is available in .mobi (for Kindle), .epub (for iBooks, etc.), and .pdf formats. See details ».