The Keshcarrigan Bowl

This is a story of imagination and conjecture!
Just how did this beautiful bowl end up in Loch Marrave close to the village of Keshcarrigan, Co
Leitrim? Dating from the 1st Century this beautiful piece of Art was discovered in Loch Marrave or The Lake of Death, 500 metres north of the village of Keshcarrigan in the 1850s during the excavations of the canal that flowed through Loch Scur , now known as the Shannon/Erne Waterway.
The vessel which may have been a ceremonial drinking bowl or cup is made of fine golden bronze
about 1mm thick and 14 centimetres wide and was formed by spinning. The most decorative
feature of the cup is its intricately formed handle in the shape of a birds head which is soldered to
the vessel.
The design and creation of this important piece of archaeology is a testament to the expertise of the
craftspersons of the time.
Loch Marrave is located on the Shannon/Erne Waterway and just north of Loch Scur one of the
largest lakes on the canal. The Loch Scur valley, tucked between Siabh an Iarann Mountain to the
north, reputedly the landing place of the mythical Tuatha de Danann and Sheebeg Hill to the south
is a beautiful and historic place. Generations of people have lived there in an unbroken line dating
back to prehistoric times. The lives of these prehistoric people are remembered in stone in the
area…..the Dolmen a partially collapsed portal tomb overlooking the lake and in local folklore
reputed to be the resting place of Grainne and Diarmuid and Standing Stones where perhaps a
ceremonial or religious ritual was held.
Sheebeg Hill overlooks the village and Loch Scur where an unofficial excavation of the passage
grave on its summit took place in 1931, the remains of two people facing east were unearthed and
put on display for a short period before being closed off to the public and the two skeletons
It is generally believed the bowl is a ceremonial drinking cup . Could it have been used in a
which was part of royal inaugurations? Perhaps it was dropped into the river as part of a ritual
rather than being accidentally lost.
Medieval times saw much activity in the area. On the shores of Loch Scur in the townland of
Gowley lie the ruins of Castle Sean a gCeann a notorious landlord of the 1600s.
Perhaps the bowl was in his possession at the time and it was thrown into the river during one of the
reported drinking and debauchery sessions held in the castle!
There are three Crannogs located on Loch Scur and evidence of occupancy were discovered during
archaeology dives in advance of dredging works. Large amounts of pottery were found all dating
to the Bronze Age. Maybe the cup was used there as part of a ritual or as an offering to the gods!
In the 1840s famine was rampant in the parish of Kiltubrid and surrounding areas. Relief works
were commenced in the parish, the biggest being the development of a canal linking the Shannon
and the Erne. During excavation works this beautiful piece of art was discovered in Loch
Marrave. How it found its way to the National Museum in Dublin is not known but its there to
this day on display for all to see and admire.
Its origin and purpose is lost to the mists of time.