I got an intense craving over the weekend to walk back in time and and touch the past. I’m talking about way, way back and the place that drew me was Gaulstown Dolmen which is about five miles from my home in Tramore.
The little grassy path leading up to Gaulstown Dolmen was a joy in itself with honeysuckle wafting its perfume and fully formed, but as yet unripened, blackberries that immediately had me thinking of Seamus Heaney.
Then round a tiny bend and the history of my Co. Waterford opened 6,000 or so years to me.
There is a magnificent quiteness in this special place ~ just the gentle swish of the wind in the trees and the beating of one’s heart.
According to the brilliant Archaeological Inventory of County Waterford compiled by Michael Moore, Megalithic tombs, like Gaulstown Dolmen, were built at a time when much of the country was first intensively occupied by farming communities. Consequently, the tombs, through their large size and impact on the landscape, can be regarded as a statement of ownership of the land as well as burial places.
As I looked at the land around the Dolmen, I wanted to know more and more about how it looked thousands of years ago.
Who walked these lands; what was going through their minds; how did they feel about life and death?
And, of course, who were the individuals who constructed the dolmen with that breath-taking capstone? What sorts of rituals surrounded death back then? It seems that cremation was the usual burial rite but what of the emotions felt by those who were bereaved ~ did such a sense as ‘being bereft’ even exist back then?