The collapse of Tirnony Dolmen, a portal tomb in Maghera, Northern Ireland, is providing archaeologists with a rare opportunity to uncover the secrets of the 5,000- 6,000-year-old structure.

Portal tombs are normally off limits to excavators, but the massive capstone of the Tirnony Dolmen fell to the ground earlier this year and archaeologists will be able to discover what lies beneath before repairs are carried out.

This will be the first time archaeologists are getting a chance to dig out a portal tomb in Northern Ireland in 50 years.

“After standing in Northern Ireland weather for over 5,000 years some of the tomb’s structural stones have begun to crack, causing the capstone to slip,” Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIIEA) archaeologist Paul Logue told the Belfast Telegraph.

“Before we start to repair the tomb we will excavate it to ensure that the archaeological material associated with it is recorded ahead of restoration work.

“When the tomb was first built it would have been used for interring the bones of selected members of the local Stone Age community. This could have included men and women, young and old. Finds from inside similar tombs include pottery and flint tools, possibly left as grave goods for use by the dead in the afterlife.

“We hope to find out more about how this tomb was built, when it was built and how it was used.”

The excavation will be charted in a blog, and members of the public are invited to come along on Friday afternoons to see what discoveries the archaeologists unearth.