The term dolmen means stone table coming from the Breton words dual (table) and maen (stone). Dolmens make up the majority of the megalithic monuments in Ireland and the settlers who built them were leaving a permanent mark on the physical landscape.

Dolmens date from about 2,500 BC and tend to have a large concentration in eastern areas of Ireland along the coast. They were used to commemorate the dead and also may have acted as centres for various ceremonies in the area. Dolmens represented the first real attempt by the settlers to organise and shape the landscape around them.

The dolmen or portal tomb located at Kilternan is one of the largest in Ireland and dates from the Neolithic period or New Stone Age, dating from 4,000 BC-2,500 BC. The granite covering stone of the dolmen measures approximately 7 metres x 5.18 metres x 1.83 metres. The rectangular chamber beneath measures 15 feet in length and 10 feet in breadth.

At the entrance to this chamber are two portal stones and a blocking stone. Partial excavation of this site in 1956 revealed the presence of flint and potsherds. Flint was used to make most of the implements including knives, axeheads and scrapers.

The implements indicate the continued use of farming as a means of survival and also perhaps the need for weapons as a means of defence.The dolmen illustrates how ingenious early settlers proved to be. They managed to lift the huge capstone, estimated to weigh over 25 tonnes, into position.

Another dolmen worth detailing is the one located in Brennanstown in the grounds of a private house along the Cabinteely-Carrickmines Road. Although the capstone is not as big as the Kilternan dolmen, the location of the dolmen makes it very striking nonetheless.

It is in a remote area, on what would have been regarded as marginal land and is in keeping with the settlement patterns at the time, ca. 2,500 B.C.- 2,000 B.C. Standing beside the dolmen the true size of it becomes apparent. The builders lived in communities of up to 3,000 people, hence the belief that the dolmen was built for the community and not as a resting place for a king.

It consists of two portal stones and a blocking stone. These lead to a chamber and the capstone covering them is estimated to weigh up to 60 tons. It is 15 ½ feet long and 15 feet wide. Interestingly, this dolmen may have been used during the famine as a home for an entire family until they got alternative shelter.

The dolmen is believed to have been a druid's altar and apparently the grooves on the top are a means of allowing the blood from sacrifices to run away more easily. Regardless of its earlier function, the monument survives today in very good condition, in a beautiful location and is well worth a visit.

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