Exploring Waterford's Ancient Monuments

Kilgreany Cave

Kilgreany Cave

Though not a monument as such, Kilgreany Cave near Cappagh in West Waterford is certainly worth mentioning here.

This important limestone cave was the site of two excavations, the first of which was carried out by EK. Tratman in the summer of 1928 and five years later in 1934 by H.L.Movius and the Harvard Archaeological Expedition.

What the archaeologists were in search of was evidence of the earliest humanity in Ireland from the Paleolithic period.

The south of Ireland was free of ice during the last glaciation and this was the reason why Kilgreany was chosen. However, what the archaeologists found was evidence of occupation from the later Neolithic and Bronze Age periods. This included two skeleton remains found both showing signs of injury and trauma and also bones of animals which would have been alive in this area during the Ice Age. Also found were pottery fragments from later periods. 

More than twenty years after these discoveries the Kilgreany human skeletons were submitted for dating to the British Museum. One skeleton was dated to 2630 + 150 B.C. - the Neolithic period, while the other was thought to be older than 9,000 B.C. suggesting that it could possibly date from the Stone Age. Along with the two skeletons found, the remains of twelve other individuals were discovered as well as early Christian artifacts, suggesting that the cave was used as burial place during the Bronze Age and a possible place of ritual for more than 6,000 years.

The remains of animal bones found included ox, sheep, goat, pig, horse, dog, wild boar, red deer, hare, rabbit, badger, otter, fox, wolf, wild cat marten, stoat, field mouse, bat, and hedgehog. Bear, lynx and artic lemming were also found as well as turkey, duck, song thrush, fieldfare, blackbird, redwing, pigeon, heron, crane, peregrine, falcon and the snowy owl. The excavations also gave an insight as to what type of trees featured in the surrounding landscape. Species included alder, hawthorn, plum, sloe, cherry, hazel, English ash, apple, pear, rowan, guelder, beam, oak, yew and holly.

The cave, which is accessible by scrambling down a steep overgrown slope, consists of three chambers - an outer, inner and rear and varies in width from 1.5m – 6m. The walls and ceilings are undecorated.

Entering Kilgreany’s cool dark chambers may prove to be a bit of an eerie experience for some, but this special place has shed much light upon what life was like in Prehistoric Waterford.

 

Inside Kilgreany cave

 

 

Directions: From Dungarvan take the road signposted for Aglish (off the N25 Ring Road) on the west of the town.

After 6.5km the road forks where there is a Christian monument. Bear right here and travel on this road for 3km till you see an elegant two storey farmhouse on the right hand side with a long avenue leading up to with wooden fencing on either side. The cave is practically part of the farmyard so do ask  for permission and directions from the farmhouse.

 

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