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Established 16/3/2000

Local men make further standing stone discoveries

Drogheda Independent, July 14, 2000:

TWO Drogheda researchers studying the ancient monuments of the the area have made two further astronomical discoveries which, they claim, bridge a 4,000-year gap in helping to understand one of the reasons for the construction of these sites.

The latest discoveries involve alignments on the rising and setting sun of the Summer Solstice sun, which occurred recently.

Anthony Murphy, journalist, and Richard Moore, artist, who are amateur astronomers, revealed how a standing stone at Barnaveddoge, near Ardee, contains a unique alignment of its flat surfaces which allow it to point at sunrise and sunset on both summer and winter solstices – two of these alignments have already been confirmed during site visits by the pair during the summer solstice week.

And another intriguing revelation was made by the two at a huge embanked enclosure, or henge, near Dowth, known to archaeologists as ‘Site Q’. This site, according to the men, has entrances or gaps aligned on the solstices.

‘Last April, during field work at this enclosure, we came to the conclusion that the orientation of the entrances was quite close to the position of the rising sun on summer solstice – what we had to do was wait until the solstice to make actual observations of the event,’ said Mr. Murphy.

‘It involved getting out of bed at 4am, and we were apprehensive about being wrong, but the moment the sun appeared was a truly glorious one for us,’ he continued. The henge site is not unique in having a calendrical alignment – they have received congratulations from researchers in England who have informed them about similar alignments, such as that at Mayburgh henge, which is aligned on the equinox sunrise and sunset.

The astronomers, along with another local man, Michael Byrne, discovered last December that a standing stone in Baltray was aligned on winter sunrise. Last week they took the opportunity of visiting Baltray to observe the rising of the full moon at Rockabill, to which the stone points directly.

This field of research is known officially as ‘archaeoastronomy’ but Mr. Murphy insists that he and Mr. Moore are ‘just amateurs with a great interest in these monuments’. ‘We are not qualified surveyors, archaeologists or astronomers, and we are very conscious of this fact, but nevertheless our discoveries so far are very interesting and warrant much further research, work which we hope to be involved in ourselves,’ he said.

‘It points to some greater astronomical knowledge which the ancient people of this area possessed, and they seem to have systematically constructed structures like Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, along with standing stones and even a henge, in such a way as to demonstrate that they were very familiar with the movement of the sun, moon and stars across the heavens.’

‘Our own research in this field has been ongoing, but there is much astronomical observation to be done at these sites, especially the Dowth henge, where our finding is not completely consistent with archaeological surveying which has been done there. Certainly this revelation raises some questions as to the function of this site.’

‘One of the things we will be looking at is whether the extremes of these embankments are aligned on the standstills of the moon, something that will require patient observation over a period of time,’ Mr. Murphy explained. And the research will continue in other areas: ‘We have been examining 5,000-year-old carvings at Dowth and Knowth and are looking at the relationship between these symbols and the celestial movements, and also some interesting astronomical references which we believe were encoded into ancient mythology concerning these monuments.’

The astronomers have a website, called “Mythical Ireland”, detailing their discoveries and containing a wealth of information about the ancient sites, mythology and astronomy of the area. It can be visited on http://go.to/mythicalireland/ and the email address is mythicalireland@eircom.net. They wished to thank the respective landowners at Barnaveddoge and Dowth for their permission to examine the sites.

Read the story on the Drogheda Independent website

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