Our monthly talks on Living in A Leitrim Landscape curated by Padraig Meehan has moved on line. For this episode we present an interview recorded with Donna Gilligan where she presents and discusses the Mythology and Archaeology of the 1931 Sheebeg Excavation in County Leitrim.
During Christmas week in 1931, a local schoolteacher and a landowner began an amateur excavation of the prehistoric tomb on the hill of Sheebeg in Kiltubrid, South Leitrim. The tomb was locally believed to contain the remains of the legendary figures of Fionn Mac Cumhail and his wife Grainne, and national and international interest was raised with the subsequent discovery of two skeletons within, seen by many to confirm this myth. The results of the excavation elevated the archaeological site of Sheebeg cairn to a wide forum of public interest and discussion, and serves as an example of the complex and common relationship between archaeology and myth. This talk explores the story of the amateur excavation and its discoveries, and explores the overlaps in Irish mythology with archaeological monuments and artefacts.
Donna Gilligan is a museum archaeologist, material culture historian, and heritage educator who has worked in the Irish museum and heritage sector for the past fourteen years. She holds Masters degrees in Archaeology, Museum Practice & Management, and Design History and Material Culture. A Leitrim native, she has published a number of journal articles and book chapters on aspects of the county’s archaeology, and wrote her Landscape Archaeology M.A. thesis on the archaeological landscape of the hills of Sheebeg and Sheemore in South Leitrim.