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The Burren, Ireland

The Burren is a region of County Clare in the southwest of Ireland. It’s a karst landscape of bedrock incorporating a vast cracked pavement of glacial-era limestone, with cliffs and caves, fossils, rock formations and archaeological sites.

As a geomorphologist by training, I loved the rugged countryside and couldn’t get enough photographs.  Unfortunately the weather was cloudy, damp and dark (isn’t always?) so photos were a bit underexposed but it pretty much captures the scene.

The oldest rocks visible on the Burren’s surface were formed during the Carboniferous period (between 359 and 299 Ma). These limestone rocks formed in shallow, warm, tropical seas 10 degrees S of the equator.  Changes in sea levels exposed the limestone. These rocks were weathered and dissolved by rainwater to form ancient Karst landscapes. Mudstone was formed when the limestones were exposed for such long periods that they became covered in soil. Thick bands of mudstones (about 200mm thick) are visible today. The mudstones contain particles of volcanic ash from volcanoes actively erupting to the south.

The Poulnabrone Dolman portal tomb is one of around 90 neolithic burial sites in the region.  Excavations in the 1980’s uncovered the remains of 21 people in the main tomb.  Radiocarbon dating of their bones indicates that the tomb was in continual use for about 600 years, between  5,200 and 5,800 years ago.

This photograph was taken with my Nikon D7000 and I must confess that i did some photoshop edits to remove the saftey ropes surrounding the tomb to keep the tourists at bay.

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