LUCKY 20 SNAP UP 'HOT' NEWGRANGE SOLSTICE TICKETS
EVENING HERALD, December 21st 2006:
|The Evening Herald article. Click to enlarge.
It was the 'hottest' ticket in town but only 20 lucky revellers made it through the gates.
Almost 30,000 hopefuls had applied to Ireland's most famous tourist attraction, Newgrange, but just 20 watched the sun light up the chamber in the neolithic monument.
At 9am this morning they witnessed the magical moment that comes just once a year, on the winter solstice. But experts have now revealed that our ancient ancestors deserve more credit than we had previously given them.
Authors, Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore, who have been studying Newgrange for eight years, say the tomb was also built to chart the movement of not just the sun but the moon and stars.
New evidence shows that in ancient times, the tomb would have been lit up by the full moon at different points during the lunar cycle. They also say that the numerous mounds on the Boyne Valley acted as a complicated calendar based on the movement of the sun, moon and stars.
"There were some pretty special things happening in the sky around the time Newgrange was built," said Mr Murphy.
"We have uncovered evidence which suggests that major significance was attached to certain stars and constellations by the Neolithic stone builders."
"Their astronomy was way more complicated than just the sun. They were able to predict the eclipses of the moon and were aware of its complicated movements."
The shape of Newgrange is similar to that of the swan constellation of stars and the area has for millennia been a wintering ground for whooper swans.
"What's clear from our eight years of research is that the people who inhabited Ireland in ancient times were master astronomers, adept surveyors and organised builders.
"Their structures, some of which still function after five millennia, are a testament to how clever they were."
The book is entitled "Island of the Setting Sun - In Search of Ireland's Ancient Astronomers".
VISITORS DRAWN TO THE LIGHT
IRISH DAILY STAR , December 22nd 2006:
|The Star article. Click to enlarge.
Mysterious ancient Irish ways were pondered by those lucky enough to be granted access to passage tombs at Newgrange, Dowth and Loughcrew for yesterday's winter solstice.
At the stunning Newgrange tomb, 20 people - chosen out of almost 30,000 international applicants - gathered in the darkness to see the once-a-year marvel when the sunlight rises and fills the whole chamber.
The 5,000-year-old structure - 500 years older than Egypt's Great Pyramid at Giza - was filled with light at 9am.
Sunlight also filled the less popular, but more eerie and untouched tomb at Loughcrew, which is filled with incredible stone-carved art.
As the light moves along the solar symbols carved into the rock, the sunlight is channelled into a beam by the entrance stones.
People travel from all over the world to see these tombs and two men who have studied them say they are greater than anyone ever realised.
Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore from Drogheda, Co. Louth, have just published a groundbreaking new book on the tombs called Island of the Setting Sun - In Search of Ireland's Ancient Astronomers by Liffey Press.
Their evidence suggests that not only did these tombs chart the movements of the sun, but also the moon and the stars.
Astronomer and editor of the Drogheda Leader Anthony Murphy said: "There were some pretty special things happening in the sky around the time Newgrange was built."
"We have uncovered evidence which suggests that major significance was attached to certain stars and constellations by the Neolithic stone builders.
"Their astronomy was way more complicated than just the sun. They were able to predict eclipses of the moon and were aware of its complicated movements."
Murphy was in the chamber of the Dowth tomb yesterday where the sun fills the chamber in the evening - an event he described as "incredible".
The book costs €29.95 and is on sale at all major book shops.
NOTE: The above article incorrectly states that Loughcrew is illuminated at the solstice. Cairn T at Loughcrew is, of course, illuminated at the equinoxes.
CELESTIAL THEORY IN BOOK ON BOYNE TOMBS
IRISH TIMES, Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007, P.2
A new book claims the megalithic tombs of the Boyne Valley were sophisticated and exact calendars of celestial movement built by astronomers.
The authors of Island of the Setting Sun , Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore, assert that the stone age builders were influenced by Irish folklore and astronomy. Their theories are supported by astronomical data from the night sky of the time.
They believe the wall of white quartz on the exterior of Newgrange was probably inspired by the Milky Way.
"Five thousand years ago, the Milky Way would have been visible as a complete ring of light on the horizon at certain times of the year. This is something which does not happen now."
The authors believe Newgrange would have accepted light not only from the sun at the winter solstice but also from the moon and possibly Venus. These celestial bodies could also be behind the triple spirals cut into the entrance kerbstone.
They assert that the cross shape of the chamber at Newgrange and the smaller passage grave of Fourknocks some 15km (9.3 miles) away "echoes the cruciform outline of the swan constellation". The book reveals that the Newgrange passage points towards Fourknocks, and its chamber structure is orientated towards where Deneb - the brightest star in the constellation of Cygnus the swan - would have been rising about 5,000 years ago.
Newgrange is an important wintering ground for the whooper swan. In the Irish myth of Aonghus and Caer, the couple went "into" Newgrange after taking the form of swans.
"Our ancestors had developed a very complicated calendar based on sophisticated astronomical observations . . . They were able to predict eclipses of the moon."
The book is published by Liffey Press.
CELTS WERE STARGAZERS
DAILY IRISH MAIL , Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007, P.13:
OUR ancient Celtic ancestors were master astronomers according to a new study of the tombs at Newgrange and Dowth, and other Celtic sites in the Boyne Valley.
Scientists now believe that these structures were a part of a system of sophisticated and exact astronomical calendars.
Island of the Setting Sun, a recently published book examines the connection between the builders of the Stone Age, Irish folklore and astronomy.
Author Anthony Murphy claims that the magnificent wall of white quartz that adorns the front of Newgrange was probably inspired by the Milky Way.
'Five thousand years ago, the Milky Way would have been visible as a complete ring of light on the horizon at certain times of the year. This is something which does not happen now.'
In the book, co-written by Richard Moore, their theories are supported with astronomical data from the night sky at the time.
They say Newgrange would have also accepted light from the moon and possibly from Venus and these celestial bodies could be behind the triple spirals cut into the entrance kerbstone at Newgrange.
'Our ancestors had developed a very complicated calendar based on sophisticated astronomical observations. Their astronomy was way more complicated than just the sun. They were able to predict eclipses of the moon and were aware of its complicated movements,' they claim.
SO BRAINY ANCESTOR
THE IRISH SUN, Tuesday, January 2nd, 2007:
THE megalithic tombs of Newgrange and Dowth were sophisticated calendars built by master astronomers, says author Anthony Murphy.
The magnificent wall of white quartz that adorns the front of Newgrange was probably inspired by the Milky Way, he says.
In the book, Island of the Setting Sun, co-written by Richard Moore, the theories are supported with astronomical data from the night sky 5,000 years ago.
They say our ancestors would have been able to predict eclipses.
MORE THEORIES ON TARA PROMOTED IN NEW BOOK
MEATH CHRONICLE, Wednesday, December 20th, 2006:
|An aerial view of Tara from the new book
THE Hill of Tara is located at the centre of an extraordinary alignment of ancient sites and its location was probably chosen as part of a huge astronomical blueprint set down in the Stone Age, the authors of a new book have claimed.
‘Island of the Setting Sun - In Search of Ireland’s Ancient Astronomers’, proposes a number of interesting new theories which suggest the ancient stone builders who inhabited Meath were advanced astronomers and surveyors who were able to arrange their sacred sites in straight lines across vast distances.
The authors, Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore, believe Tara’s importance was accentuated by the fact that it lies between Carbury in Kildare, the place which mythology says was the rising point of the Boyne, and the Millmount in Drogheda, said to be the burial place of the Milesian astronomer poet, Amergin.
“If you trace a line on a map from Millmount as far as Carbury in Kildare, it intersects Rath Maeve on Tara,” said Anthony Murphy. “This is yet another example of the ‘cosmic grid’ of aligned ancient sites, and shows the level on which the ancient people worked. They were far more advanced than we give them credit for.”
The Millmount-Tara alignment is even more fascinating because when one stands at the Hill of Tara on summer solstice, the longest day of the year, the sunrise comes up in the direction of Millmount.
Conversely, when you’re standing at Millmount on winter solstice, the shortest day, sunset lies in the direction of Tara.
The pair believe that many of the ancient Irish myths and legends contain astronomical information, and propose that Tara was the “seat of the ‘sky’ king” because of the fact that the large man-like constellation of Orion, which may have been the inspiration for characters such as Nuadu/Nechtain, Cuchulainn and Fionn MacCumhaill, was setting over Tara viewed from Millmount in the Neolithic.
“Tara also sits on another unique alignment involving the hill of Realtoge (meaning ‘star’), the Hill of Slane and Mount Oriel in Louth. What we found looking at the story of St Patrick and the Paschal Fire was that King Laoghaire and his people would have been looking towards the rising of the cross-shaped constellation Cygnus at the moment when Patrick lit the fire on Slane,” Mr Murphy added.
The book proposes a number of interesting new theories about the Boyne Valley monuments. The authors claim to have found the true inspiration for the design of Newgrange, saying its chamber is based upon the Cygnus (swan) constellation, something that is supported by the mythology of Newgrange and its astronomical alignments. They believe they can explain why Newgrange is fronted by a wall of milky quartz also.
There is further intriguing information about how Dowth might have functioned as an astronomical observatory used in the study of eclipses, something which is supported by the mythology of Dowth which speaks of a sudden darkness in conjunction with summer solstice.
In addition to all this, the authors put forward information about a possible solution to how the remarkable site of Knowth functioned as an astronomical device.
“What has become clear is that the astronomers who built the Boyne monuments used a complicated calendar based not only on the sun, but on the moon, planets and stars also,” said Mr Murphy.
‘Island of the Setting Sun’ is the product of eight years of research into the ancient astronomers. It runs to 330 pages and is printed in full colour with lavish illustrations, beautiful photography and remarkable paintings by the artist Richard Moore. It is available from all good bookshops for s29.95 or can be purchased online at www.mythicalireland.com
IT'S ALL IN THE STARS
MID-LOUTH LEADER, December 20th, 2006, P1:
|The article from the Mid-Louth Leader
By Juley-Ann Collins
ARDEE, Collon, Dunleer and the whole mid-Louth area feature strongly in a new book which claims that ancient stories and monuments have their inspiration among the stars.
Author, journalist and stargazer Anthony Murphy has just published a new book entitled “Island of the Setting Sun – In Search of Ireland’s Ancient Astronomers”, in which the Ardee area features very strongly.
The book, co-authored by Murphy and local artist Richard Moore, guides us through the tales and monuments of prehistoric Ireland and makes some interesting revelations and claims about the people who lived here thousands of years ago.
The book narrates us through the many feats of fine legendary warriors such as Ferdia and Cúchulainn, and tales such as The High Man, the Black Pig and the enchanted army.
“I have always been interested in the stars. I remember one of my first recollections for my interest was when I was eight years old; I was in geography class in primary school when our teacher showed us a map of the plough. As soon as school finished I went to the library searching to find a book to teach me more about astronomy. That night, I went out to my back garden and gazed up into the sky and was amazed to see the groups of stars, or constellations, that were in the book,” Anthony said.
Anthony’s love of astronomy has kept on growing ever since and he is very excited about his new book.
“This book explains theories that link the constellation Orion to the High Man, an area of Louth which is contained between the river Boyne and the Dee. It seems to have been an ancient endeavour to create the shape of the Orion constellation on the ground.”
“It is apparent that in prehistory, people believed their soul would go to the stars after they died. Their heaven was in the stellar realm,” he explained.
“We believe the ancients might have created this image of heaven on the ground.”
Many of the folk tales from the area have been passed down through the years. These theories are explored and discussed through ancient local folklore and sites from Ardee, Collon, Dunleer, Louth, and Smarmore and brings greater meaning to them.
“There are stories that many people would recognise such as the Black Pig, who it is believed will run at the end of time or at the time of a great war. The book also looks very closely at Lugh, who the county is named after.
“Garrett’s Fort near the Jumping Church is also mentioned. The story goes that the enchanted sleeping army will be woken by a hero at the end of time, which is connected with the High Man’s trumpet call.”
“Ardee was at the centre of all things ancient,” he said.
SEOIGE AND O'SHEA, RTE1 television, Monday, January 8th, 2007:
Anthony Murphy and Richard Moore appeared on live TV on the Seoige and O'Shea show with Gráinne Seoige and Joe O'Shea. Here's a photo taken immediately after the show finished:
See more about the show at this link
PAT KENNY, RTE Radio 1, Monday, January 8th, 2007:
Pat did a ten-minute slot with us on his daily radio show and we really enjoyed the experience. Afterwards, he autographed our books and kindly agreed to stand into a photo. You can listen to the show by clicking this link. To hear our clip, fast forward to 1hr 46m 54s for the start of the interview. See more at: http://www.rte.ie/radio1/todaywithpatkenny/1044604.html
ANNA LIVIA RADIO, Astronomy Ireland show, December 5th, 2006:
Hear Island of the Setting Sun author Anthony Murphy talk to Ben Emmet on the Astronomy Ireland radio show about the new book. Click here to download MP3 file. Fast forward to 4 minutes, 50 seconds to hear the start of the interview.
Further to all the above, the authors were interviewed on LMFM radio in Ireland on two occasions, once on the 'Loose Talk' show by Michael Reade, and once on Smidirini with Áine ni Chairbre, and Anthony Murphy appeared on RTE2 television at 6pm on Thursday, December 21st (Winter Solstice).