The archaeological landscape of Leean Mountain, Co. Leitrim
Dr Tatjana Kytmannow, QUB, visiting research fellow


The top of the newly discovered hillfort/ hilltop enclosure at Sramore/ Doons

Leean Mountain is the eastern part of a limestone mountain ridge that runs for c. 11km from Cope’s Mountain in the west (National Grid 73000/41000) over Crockauns Mountain, Keelogyboy Mountain, Hangman’s Hill, Sramore Mountain, Fawnlion Mountain, Leean Mountain, Conray Hill to Fawnarry Mountain (National Grid 81000/38000). The Glencar Valley and the Benbulbin Range lie to the north. Only Cope’s Mountain and Keelogyboy Mountain are in Co. Sligo; the others are in Co. Leitrim. 

The first discoveries were made here by Tatjana Kytmannow together with other archaeology students from NUI Galway in 2000 (Clarke and Kytmannow 2004). Previously, only six archaeological sites had been listed. After three seasons of systematic survey, circa 45 hutsites, three standing stones, one enigmatic boulder circle, one barrow, several chert scatters, six cairns, one hillfort and miles of pre-bog walls have been added to the records. Several pollen cores were taken, radiocarbon-dated and analysed. The numerous lithic finds were also analysed and a vegetational history of the mountain uplands has been established.

Research area, Leean Mountain is E, Cope’s Mountain W (from Google Earth Pro)

Indications are that the area became first settled in Neolithic times. Settlement activity here experienced an apogee during the Bronze Age, followed by an abandonment during the Late Iron Age/ Early Medieval period. Re-settling took place in the Late Medieval/ Early Modern era. Since Famine times the area is used solely for grazing and the various settlement structures are in a very good state of preservation. The three megaliths and the large cairn on Leean Mountain did not fare that well: The cairn had a trigonometrical station constructed at its top; the cairn and structure of a possible court tomb was used as road-building material and the other two megaliths were robbed out and their cairns partly used for wall building.

No other area in this mountain range has shown similar richness in archaeological sites to Leean. However, a small cluster of archaeological sites is found at Sramore, including a recently discovered hillfort with interior features. Eleven previously unlisted caves were discovered too and are currently being investigated for archaeological significance as part of a PhD project.

Over the years many people have given their time and expertise. They are named in the acknowledgements of the three annual reports. The work has been generously supported by the Heritage Council of Ireland, Queen’s University Belfast and the Royal Irish Academy.

Further information on the results from the individual survey campaigns can be found in the publications listed below and on the webpages linked to in the above navigation bar

Kytmannow, T. 2006. ‘New prehistoric discoveries in the Kesh Corann/ Carrowkeel complex, Co. Sligo’ Archaeology Ireland. Vol. 19 No. 4: 20-23.
Clarke, S. and Kytmannow, T. 2004. ‘The Leean Mountain area of County Leitrim: a prehistoric landscape revealed’ Archaeology Ireland. Vol. 18 No. 2: 36-39.
Kytmannow, T., Kahlert, T, and Hunt, C. 2010. ‘The Doons Hillfort’. Archaeology Ireland. Vol. 24 No. 3; 18-21.

Cairn on Cope’s Mountain, with enclosure and suspiciously modern looking ‘cross slab’