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Living in A Leitrim Landscape Talk Series: Finding Fionn Mac Cumhail: The Mythology and Archaeology of the 1931 Sheebeg Excavation

Sat 11 April, 8:00pm

Tickets €10/€8

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Our monthly talks on Living in A Leitrim Landscape curated by Padraig Meehan continue with Donna Gilligan and Ken Williams.

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.

Ken Williams is a photographer and researcher from Drogheda specialising in the prehistoric art and monuments of Western Europe. For the past 15 years he  have been engaged in a long term photographic project centering on the megalithic monuments of Western Europe, entitled 'Shadows and Stone'. The project has featured as a cover story in The Irish Times' magazine as well as appearing in several solo and group exhibitions in Ireland. 

He has been involved in numerous collaborations with archaeologists on a wide range of projects and have contributed to several academic and popular publications on the themes of prehistoric art and monuments, their recording and future conservation.