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Established 16/3/2000
MoonStanding stones at Barnaveddoge, Co. LouthMoon

Double Solstice alignment and further discoveries

Barnaveddoge standing stone (No.186 - Archaeological Survey of Co. Louth)

This stone is the smaller of the two standing stones at Barnaveddoge, and is very special astronomically because it is aligned on sunrise and sunset on both Summer and Winter solstices.
On June 19th, we had arrived just in time to see that one of the four sides of the stone was aligned to the Summer Solstice sunset. And by chance there was a gap in the intervening hedgerow which allowed us to make the observation. The time was 9:43pm, June 19th, 2000.

The stone, we estimated, is 8-9 feet tall. The Archaeological Survey says it is a "Large block-like boulder" 2.1m in height and 1.2m by 0.9m in section, oriented NW-SE.

It is conveniently located just inside the ditch along the Dunleer to Ardee Road, and is very close to the field entrance. The stone leans towards the northwest.

The smaller stone at Barnaveddoge

FOUR FLAT FACES

Unlike the large stone at Baltray, which has two wide sides and two narrow ones, this stone seems to have four sides of approximately equal length, and in section is square in shape, but with the sides oriented so that its ground plan looks like a lozenge. On the left edge of the side facing NE is an Ogham inscription. According to the Archaeological Survey: "The remains of an ogham inscription, probably added to the existing standing stone early in the first millennium AD, can be seen on the upper part of the E corner. This inscription, as read from the base, has been translated as 'Branogeni' by Macalister. Also on this side, above the ogham, are some holes in the stone which local legend says were the hand mark of Finn McCool's wife. The holes do resemble finger-holes. One of these holes is hollowed out into the stone a few inches. It is difficult to say how the holes came about.


From the east
The eastern face
From the north
The western face
From the east
The dark eastern face
From the north
The western face

Cattle have used this stone for scratching, and the northern edge which faces into the field is particularly polished. The southwestern side of the stone has many pock marks, but again this is the side of the stone facing the elements and these are most probably markings resulting from weathering. The southeastern side of the stone is very dark, almost black, and appears to be a sediment of a different kind of rock. This side has diagonal sedimentary cracks just like its larger counterpart, again running from top left to bottom right. There is a large groove at the very top of the stone, which has been filled with a growth of moss. The stone is leaning towards the northeast by about 10 to 15 degrees. Like its counterpart, this stone lies near a hedgerow and hence they both lie in unploughed parts of their respective fields.

Sun alignment
Sunset position
This photo shows the approximate position of the setting sun on the horizon, which is visible through a gap in the hedgerow. In this picture I ensured the stone was in focus to show how the flat side is aligned towards the position of Summer sunset.

ASTRONOMICAL ALIGNMENTS

Astronomically, this stone is extremely interesting because it seems to mark sunrise and sunset at both the Winter Solstice and the Summer Solstice. Due to cloud in the west the sun was disappearing, but we got some pictures before it hit the horizon and we were able to check the alignment of the side of the stone with the sunset. This means that this side of the stone also marks Winter Solstice sunrise. But the flat side on the NW of the stone is aligned NE-SW, and a compass measurement gave us an angle of 55 degrees. This side also seems to point towards the larger stone, but intervening hedges made it impossible to verify. It is interesting that a line on the OS Map (Discovery sheet 36) drawn from this stone to the larger one is 48 degrees, the angle of Summer Solstice sunrise, so again there seems to have been a deliberate alignment of the two stones.

Barnaveddoge large stone

Barnaveddoge standing stone (No.185 - Archaeological Survey of Co. Louth)

The larger of the two standing stones of Barnaveddoge, which is located three fields away from the smaller, is located in the second field north of the road which cuts across the summit of the Barnaveddoge ridge. It is located on the northeastern downslopes, quite close to a hedgerow on the eastern side of the field. Fortunately, the stone is out of the way of any ploughing activity, although it has at some time been used as a scratchpost by cattle. The area is called Barnaveddoge, which one source says is literally translated as Barna Faddoge, the whistling gap. According to the landowner, a man who lives at Barnaveddoge, the area is known as the "Hill of the Curlew".

The larger stone in silhouette

A view of the large stone (No. 185) at Barnaveddoge, taken on the Summer Solstice.

The Archaeological Survey of Co. Louth (Buckley and Sweetman, 1991) says this stone is a "large block of fine-grained rock, tending to split into layers at a slant. Its dimensions are 3.2m in height, and 1.8m by 0.9m in section", quite a large standing stone, and the highest in Co. Louth according to the survey. The longest flat side is the eastern side, which is oriented to compass azimuth 355 degrees, only five degrees off north. Due to an intervening hedgerow, the horizon cannot be seen properly from the stone, but we estimated the view to be quite level from stone to horizon. It is interesting to note that this is the only completely flat side of the stone. Other faces have flat areas, but this one is flat from south to north and from top to bottom.

Stone 185 from the east
Looking to the south
Western side
Looking north
Stone 185 viewed from the east
Looking towards the south
The weathered and layered western side
Pictured looking towards the north

The shorter north side of the stone seems to point roughly in the direction of the smaller standing stone on the peak of Barnaveddoge, but intervening hedges make neither stone intervisible. This angle, according to our compass measurements, was 240 degrees. About 3-4 feet from the bottom the stone becomes rough with large slanted grooves, down to ground level. On the western side of this stone there is a series of linear cracks, which seem consistent with sedimentary rock, running diagonally from top left to bottom right, as viewed from the west. There is some weathering damage on this side, with one or two of these cracks widened due to erosion. The southern side (also a narrow side) is flat at the bottom up to about 3-4 feet. The top part of this side, from about 6 feet upwards, is also very flat. This stone is somewhat pointed. At the base it measures about 6 feet on its North-South axis, bulging slightly at a height of about 4-5 feet and then narrowing from there to the top, where the width is only about 2-3 feet. And the stone is certainly an impressive sight. It even towers higher than the larger stone at Baltray, which is 2.9m in height.

GOOD CONDITION

There has been some scratching by cattle at all four corners, but generally the stone is in good condition. There is lichen growth, heavy towards the top, with some small amounts of black lichen on the eastern side. Also, there are some pock marks on the southern side, but this seems to be the result of weathering as the marks form no discernible pattern and don't look manmade. There are small amounts of graffiti on the eastern side, but none of this is too obvious.

Large stone

According to the land owner, who was very welcoming and accommodating to us, local legend says that Finn McCool and his wife had a competition to throw stones. Finn McCool's stone was the larger one, but his wife, who had the smaller stone, threw it further than his!!

See a news article in the Drogheda Independent website about our discovery.

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