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Ballintaggart Court Tomb

The Ballintaggart Court tomb from Co. Armagh has found a new home at the Ulster Folk Museum, deepening the heritage we share at the museum.

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A long view of a Neolithic court tomb, with stones standing tall in front.

What is a court tomb?

A court tomb is a Neolithic burial structure. A series of upright stones form a semi-circular 'court yard' at the entrance to the burial chambers, where human remains would have been deposited. The tombs would have been covered in a mound or ‘cairn’ of stones. The 'court yard' area would have acted as a focal point where people could gather to conduct rites and rituals.

Saved from destruction

In 1966, Ulster Museum Keeper of Antiquities Laurence Flanagan was informed that a Neolithic court tomb at Ballintaggart, County Armagh, was at risk of destruction from expansion of a neighbouring quarry. With the assistance of his colleague Deirdre Crone and four local workmen, the court tomb was surveyed, excavated, and installed at the Ulster Museum. In 2006, the court tomb was removed and placed into storage as the Ulster Museum embarked on a 3-year renovation project. It has remained in storage until now.

In 2019, National Museums NI conducted a period of consultation with stakeholders regarding the long-term future of the Ballintaggart Court tomb. The significance of the tomb was well known to the Richmount Rural Community Association, Portadown, who has been integral to the process of reconstituting and making the ancient tomb publically accessible once again. Ultimately, the Ulster Folk Museum was chosen for the court tomb's reconstruction due to the potential for linking Ulster’s archaeological heritage with the folk history represented at the museum. 

Over the past few months, the court tomb has been reconstructed stone by stone in the rural area of the museum. This incredible piece of our shared heritage is now open the public to visit and learn about our ancient past.

A new home

The Ulster Folk Museum was chosen to house the Ballintaggart Court tomb because of our aim to share the rich heritage of Ulster. Throughout the ages, the people of Ulster were aware of these archaeological structures and formed their own ideas, stories, and folklore about them.  

The journey to the Ulster Folk Museum began with the assistance of researchers from the Centre for Community Archaeology at Queen's University Belfast, who created models each of the stones of the court tomb. These models were then 3D scanned by John Meneely, allowing for full 360 degree examination of each of the stones.

In the spring of 2023, Restoration Works Ltd. began installing the tomb in the Rural area of the museum. The stonemasons and contractors prepared the field and consulted both historical documents from the initial excavation and the prepared models from Queen's University to ensure that the stones were placed correctly. Their expertise in heritage work ensured the stones were accurately situated and safely installed.