The Vikings changed the course of Irish history and left a lasting legacy on the island’s gene pool. We know them as blond-haired invaders, pirates and warriors, who travelled by sea from Scandinavia to raid and eventually settle on the island. Now, cutting-edge DNA analysis on archaeological remains has shed new light on the identity of Irish Vikings.
Anthony Murphy reports on another archaeological discovery in the Boyne Valley using drone aerial reconaissance.
There is lots of mythology about Newgrange and Brú na Bóinne, but even myths which are ostensibly about other places can mention the great complex of the Boyne. I found one fascinating reference to the Brú in a passage in the Rennes Dindshenchas, and here I explore its significance.
The news that a five-thousand-year-old Neolithic passage-tomb in Co Sligo was vandalised, possibly by treasure hunters, is sadly the latest in a long line of incidents in which ancient Irish monuments have been damaged. Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland examines the issue of the destruction of heritage and calls for better funding and a change in attitudes, along with new education schemes, to protect monuments.
In this long-read blog post, Anthony Murphy identifies THREE myths about Newgrange and the Brú na Bóinne monuments which involve episodes of incest. All three of these myths feature kings who – wittingly or unwittingly – carry out acts of incest.
An art installation celebrating the 'High Man' and the myths and monuments of the Boyne Valley region has been unveiled at Drogheda's Workspace Centre.
A major new study has revealed remarkable secrets about Ireland's first farmers, those who built the great megalithic monuments of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.
A prolonged dry spell in the Boyne Valley through March, April and May has left grass fields at Brú na Bóinne parched, revealing significant amounts of archaeology beneath the soil. I have been mapping a large area of Newgrange Farm in recent weeks with my drone and some of the aerial images show features that are probable monuments that have not been recorded.
There are several ancient names for the town of Drogheda, on the river Boyne in county Louth. In this blog post, Anthony Murphy look at some of those old names and the myths behind them.
The following is a review of my book 'Mythical Ireland: New Light on the Ancient Past' by Réamonn Ó Ciaráin of Aonach Mhacha, a cultural centre in Armagh. It is a wonderful review (Réamonn calls it a meditiation) and is, I think, the best review of any of my books I have ever read. Réamonn has kindly allowed me to share it here.
Ireland’s myths and legends speak of giants, gods, warriors and heroes. The Boyne Valley region is the heartland of many of these stories. The most important myths and monuments from the past are based in this area.
To counteract the negativity and anxiety around the Covid-19 (coronavirus) outbreak here in Ireland, I have started a new series of live broadcasts featuring readings and discussion of Irish myths and legends.
Anthony Murphy takes a look at the Tall Cross (West Cross) at Monasterboice and briefly describes the biblical scenes depicted on the 21ft-tall sandstone monument.
New research carried out by the Palaeoenvironmental Research Unit at NUI Galway has proven that Céide Fields, situated on the north Mayo coast, date back to the early Neolithic (earliest farming period), almost 6,000 years ago. Céide Fields is one of the best preserved ancient farming landscapes not only in Ireland but in Europe, thanks to the extensive growth of blanket bog that covered and preserved these landscapes.
The recent fluctuation and fading in the brightness of the star Betelgeuse in Orion prompted me to have a look at ancient Irish myths which might pertain to this constellation and its bright red star.
I've been re-reading one of the old stories about Newgrange. It's called Altram Tíge Dá Medar, which means something like "the fosterage of the houses of the two drinking vessels". It There are some very interesting aspects of the story which may describe aspects of the monument.
It has been a very busy and interesting year for Mythical Ireland. Here, Anthony Murphy selects his favourite photographs from the past year as we head from 2019 into 2020. If you wish to purchase a print of any of these pictures, send us an email through the Mythical Ireland contact page.
In 'The Myth of the Eternal Return', Mircea Eliade writes about rites and beliefs from disparate traditions (e.g. Egyptian, Hebrew, Iranian, Babylonian, North American Indian, etc) concerning the "regeneration of time", especially with regard to the year, the new year and cosmogony. Anthony Murphy discusses some parallels with the mythology of Síd in Broga (Newgrange).
Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland takes us on a tour of lots of unrecorded monuments he has discovered in drought imagery just released by Apple Maps. Some of the monuments are at Brú na Bóinne, with one being just 400m from Newgrange.
Extremely detailed views of the Brú na Bóinne area taken by satellite during the drought of 2018 have revealed a raft of possible new monuments. I went searching through the imagery and found at least 15 features which are possibly or likely to be archaeology, none of which are yet recorded by the National Monuments Service.
Anthony Murphy takes a look at two myths about how the Rockabill islands were formed.
A theory suggesting that kerb stone 15 at Knowth contains a carving of a swan's head and neck is examined by Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland, who finds that the theory fails on several fundamental grounds. The suggestion that there is a swan motif on K15 is not tenable.
My sixth book, 'Dronehenge: The Story Behind the Remarkable Discovery at Newgrange', has been sent to print by publisher Liffey Press and will hopefully be in the shops around 21st October or so.
There is a beautiful but somewhat unusual carving on an upright stone inside the 5,000-year-old chamber of the Newgrange megalithic monument at Brú na Bóinne. There are several suggestions as to what it might represent. Anthony Murphy explores the theories.
In the pale, cool light of autumn, a warm glow radiates from the old stones of Síd in Broga. The night watchman is here. The night watchwoman. Mrs. Hickey, the long-time custodian of this magnificent monument, long dead, still lives.
My new book about the discovery of Dronehenge is complete. My proofreading of the draft was finished during the past week and all chapters have been sent to Liffey Press. The text runs to about 68,000 words – not bad considering I started writing it on 9th April!! All images for the book have been sent to Liffey Press also.
In June, during a visit to the Neolithic passage-tomb of Fourknocks in Co. Meath, I was witness to a beautiful phenomenon that resulted from a combination of modern architecture and ancient art. Megalithic art – engravings made upon stone by humans around 5,000 years ago – was being illuminated by a pulsating beam of the summer sun, emerging through a narrow slit in the roof.
There was a "serious decline" in the population of Ireland in the two centuries preceding the arrival of the Vikings, a new study has revealed.
I am delighted to announce that I will be giving my first ever lecture in the United States in November. I have been invited by Paul Muldoon, Pulitzer Prize winning Irish poet, to deliver a talk about the discovery of Dronehenge at Newgrange, at Princeton University.
Sophisticated archaeological techniques were unable to determine with any certainty whether the mound supporting the Martello tower of Millmount, Drogheda, could be older than Norman times, as suggested in local folklore.
Twenty years ago, in the summer of 1999, Michael Byrne placed his binoculars along the edge of the larger of two standing stones at Baltray, Co. Louth, and found that he could see the islands of Rockabill in his field of view. That was to lead to the discovery of the winter solstice alignment of the large stone towards Rockabill. Michael, Richard Moore and Anthony Murphy returned to the stones for a 20th anniversary celebration.
During the excavations of Newgrange in the 1960s and 1970s, Professor Michael J. O'Kelly investigated an area at the rear of the great cairn, opposite the entrance, because several kerb stones on that side had fallen over. What he found is intriguing, and led him to speculate that a structure – possibly a smaller passage-tomb – pre-dating Newgrange might yet be found.
The Bealtaine Fire Festival at the Hill of Uisneach is a spectacular event. I went along with my camera to capture some of the scenes at this wonderful reinstitution of a very ancient celebration on the hill that marked the sacred centre of Ireland.
In the latest Mythical Ireland podcast, Anthony Murphy interviews American writer Judith Nilan about her two books and her interest in Irish sacred sites, our old myths, the Tuatha Dé Danann and what it means to be an elder.
Author Anthony Murphy has just signed a book deal with his publisher, The Liffey Press, for a book about the discovery of Dronehenge at Newgrange last summer. The book will be published in October.
An investigation of some of the prominent places associated with Ireland's patron saint, Saint Patrick, and associated mythology, cosmology and alignments, throws up some very interesting surprises. Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland investigates some of the myths behind the man, and his journey across Ireland.
A pre-Famine tradition that 18th March was a feast day in honour of a long forgotten Saint, St. Sheelah, a wife or consort of St. Patrick, has come back into public consciousness due to recent scholarly work by Shane Lehane of University College Cork around the folklore of this event. To celebrate and remember St. Sheelah's Day, Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland visited an obscure possible remnant of the tradition around this forgotten female figure.
The late Neolithic henge and other archaeological features discovered near Newgrange during the drought of summer 2018 have become visible again in a field of barley at Newgrange Farm. This drone video shows most of the significant features in the field.
The late Neolithic henge discovered by Anthony Murphy and Ken Williams at Newgrange Farm last summer has become visible again in a crop of spring barley. The duo were flying their drones again when they spotted the re-emergence of this enigmatic monument.
This is a beautiful and yet heartbreaking insight into a possible meaning of the "nut lamentation" which is one of the stories from the Dindshenchas about how the great passage-tomb of Knowth got its name. It was contributed to the Irish-Stones group by Helen McKay.
Ireland has long been divided. Today, there is an invisible border that separates the Republic of Ireland from Northern Ireland. In mythology, the division of Ireland into provinces began with the Lebor Gabála Érenn, the Book of the Takings of Ireland, a pseudo-historical cosmogonic narrative that was compiled in Christian times but which related to events which were said to have occurred in prehistory.
In this month's Mythical Ireland podcast, I discuss recent archaeological discoveries in Ireland from drought imagery in Google Earth and the continued closure of Cairn T at Loughcrew due to structural concerns.
There has been significant media interest in the discovery of previously unknown archaeological sites in eastern Ireland, using Google Earth. The story has been featured in Irish and international print and online media.
New Google Earth satellite imagery showing parts of Ireland at the end of June 2018 reveals significant numbers of archaeological sites. Some of these were previously recorded and show superb new details. Others had not been known about until now.
The Office of Public Works along with its strategic partners, Fáilte Ireland and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, is set to invest €5m at Brú na Bóinne. The works include major refurbishment of Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, the installation of a stunning state of the art exhibition at Knowth celebrating the megalithic art at the site and improved interpretation and visitor facilities at Newgrange National Monument.
The Tara Brooch has rightly been described as Ireland's finest piece of jewellery. It dates from the 7th century AD and represents the pinnacle of achievement by the early medieval Irish metalworkers. The story of how it was lost – and found again centuries later – is intriguing to the point of fascination.
I've been reading the Cath Maige Tuired (The Second Battle of Moytura). I purchased Elizabeth Gray's translation a while back and it's a fascinating read. The text is featured with the original Irish on the left-hand pages and the English translation on the right.
Anthony Murphy shares his photos of the "super blood wolf moon" - the total lunar eclipse - taken at various locations in the Boyne Valley including Drogheda, Dowth and Newgrange.
New 3D computer models commissioned by Mythical Ireland attempt to show what 'Dronehenge', the late Neolithic henge discovered during the drought in July 2018, might have looked like. The artist's illustrations give us some insight into this gigantic monument and what it might have appeared like when it was built.
The Milky Way galaxy and Venus over Síd in Broga (Newgrange passage-mound) at Brú na Bóinne. The Milky Way had many names in Irish myth and tradition. One of the traditions is that two trees grew out of the graves of two lovers who had been buried either side of a lake, and that the branches of the two trees connected in the sky over the lake.
This is kerb stone 78 at Knowth, located not far from the entrance to the western passage. It is one of 127 kerb stones at Knowth, of which 90 have megalithic art. But what do these symbols represent, if anything? Are they merely art for art’s sake?
As we come to the end of 2018, Mythical Ireland's Anthony Murphy recalls the moment when he discovered a previously unrecorded late Neolithic henge monument near Newgrange with his drone, in company with Ken Williams.
On the day of winter solstice, when hundreds of people will gather at the 5,000-year-old chambered cairn of Newgrange (Síd in Broga) in the Boyne Valley to celebrate the ancient turning of the year, fascinating new insights are being revealed about monuments discovered during the summer drought of 2018.
It gives me the greatest pleasure to announce that my novel, The Cry of the Sebac, has gone to print! Previously only available on Amazon Kindle, where it has been warmly received, the book will now be available in a physical print version.
Scientific dating has confirmed that the remains of a logboat found in the River Boyne close to the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Site dates to the Neolithic period, over 5,000 years ago.
The summer of 2018 will be remembered for many years to come as one of the most exciting times for archaeology. I'm delighted to have been personally involved in what has been described as the largest discovery of them all, a late Neolithic henge near Newgrange, revealed by parch marks in a wheat field following two months of drought.
Dagda Mór, the supreme deity of the Tuatha Dé Danann, was said to have been the one who built and owned Síd in Broga (Newgrange). He was later tricked out of ownership of Newgrange by his son, Oengus Óg. Afterwards, he retired to another, smaller mound. Here, I discuss which one he went to.
It's been an extremely busy month here at Mythical Ireland, following my involvement in the biggest archaeological find of a lifetime here in the Boyne Valley with a new henge found near Newgrange. I've been doing a lot of media interviews for the past month. Now, I am also featured in several podcasts.
The festival of Lughnasa, marking the beginning of the harvest and the end of summer, might well be a prehistoric celebration. One of the most noticeable aspects of this time of year is the noticeable contraction of the days, and the lengthening of night.
In a brand new episode of The Meaning of Myth, Anthony Murphy and Treacy O'Connor discuss the symbol of the hawk from Irish mythology, and how the myth of Fintan mac Bóchra inspired the novel The Cry of the Sebac.
The Tuatha Dé Danann are the early gods of Ireland, associated with the great sídhe or passage-mounds of Brú na Bóinne. There is some debate about their original name, whether it was Tuatha Dé Danann or just Tuatha Dé, and attempts have been made to link them with the Tribe of Dan, one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Anthony Murphy briefly investigates.
Following my discovery (with Ken Williams) of a previously unrecorded henge or ceremonial enclosure just 750m from Newgrange last week, I have been taking a tentative look at the possible astronomical alignment of the monument. There are some interesting initial observations.
Mythical Ireland founder Anthony Murphy and Ken Williams of Shadows & Stone photography together discovered a huge monument in the Brú na Bóinne UNESCO world heritage site near Newgrange on 10th July 2018. Here, Anthony penned his thoughts a few days after the momentous discovery.
The longest days of the year have arrived. The sun's rising and setting positions have reached their most northerly points along the horizon and these rising points are now "standing still" - hence the word solstice, or in Irish grianstad, meaning, literally, "stopped sun".
Who are the Irish, and where did we come from? These are such academic questions. What we should really be asking is what power this island holds over us, and in what way does it transform and transfix us upon our arrival here? It's not in the origins of the Irish we should be looking, for these lines of inquiry will lead to arbitrary conclusions and follow dull lines of material and conventional inquiry.
In 1992, it was suggested that the sacred site of Uisneach, the traditional "centre" of Ireland located in present-day Westmeath, was aligned with the Loughcrew megalithic complex and Slieve Gullion for summer solstice sunrise. Anthony Murphy investigates the remarkable accuracy of this 63-mile alignment using Google Earth.
The late Irish poet William Butler Yeats needs no introduction. He is probably Ireland's most famous poet, and is acknowledged as a significant figure in literary modernism and twentieth-century European letters. Here, I look at one of his poems (and one of my favourites), the Song of Wandering Aengus, and examine briefly some of its mythic and symbolic importance.
My journeys to and from the megalithic monuments of Brú na Bóinne always involve the Drogheda to Slane Road, the N51. Sometimes, I take a left at Townley Hall on the old Dowth road. More often than not, I carry on past that turn, through Sheepgrange and Rossin, and hang a left after Dolly Mitchell's pub at Monknewtown. I feel as if I've been travelling those roads for centuries.
While the whole population of Ireland and people of Irish descent around the world celebrate Saint Patrick's Day this coming Saturday, not many people will know that the day after, March 18th, is dedicated to Patrick's wife, Sheelah. Yes, Saint Patrick was married, according to tradition!
A team of researchers has begun searching for "the lost landscapes" of the Irish Sea that were flooded as the sea level rose in ancient times. The team, from the Irish Marine Institute and IT Sligo, has joined with a University of Bradford "Lost Frontiers" programme to explore the extensive submerged landscapes between Ireland and Britain.
A new study in the journal Nature suggests that the Neolithic population of ancient Britain was almost completely replaced by newcomers, the Beaker people, by about 2500BC. The huge study involved the extraction of DNA from 400 ancient Europeans, including samples from Neolithic, Copper Age and Bronze Age peoples, 226 of them from the Beaker period.
I was honoured to be asked to launch the 11th annual Brigid of Faughart Festival in Dundalk on Thursday 11th January 2018. Here are the notes of the talk which I gave at the launch night, which was held in the Louth County Library in Dundalk.
Professor George Eogan's new book, 'The Passage Tomb Archaeology of the Great Mound at Knowth' is an enormous tome and a hugely comprehensive and impressive account of the four decades of excavations at the monument.
As we say goodbye to 2017 on this, New Year's Eve, I've decided to take a trawl through my photographs of ancient sites from the past 12 months and pick out my favourites for you to enjoy. I hope you like them as much as I loved taking them. Happy New Year!
Artist Lar Dooley has reviewed Mythical Ireland: New Light on the Ancient Past. Below is the text of his review.
On Wednesday and Thursday, December 20th and 21st, the winter solstice celebrations at Newgrange will be broadcast live on the internet by Ireland's Ancient East in conjunction with the OPW. Visit this page at 8.30am on both mornings to watch the broadcast below.
I feel honoured and privileged to be able to stand in the doorway of Síd in Broga on the shortest mornings of the year and to be present at this special moment in the same place as those distant ancestors once stood.
If, like most people, you are not among the winter solstice lottery winners who will have exclusive access to the chamber of Newgrange during the coming days around winter solstice, then fret not. Because this fantastic video by Paul Kelly shows the sunlight streaming into the passage and chamber, and it's set to beautiful music that will enchant you and put you into a mystical mood!
As we approach the winter solstice, and the celebrated illumination of the 5,200-year-old chamber of Newgrange by the rising sun on the shortest days, I've decided to pick out my favourite images of the famous megalithic monument from the past 12 months. Some of these choices were easy, as in a few cases I think the images are very dramatic and unique. In other cases, I had a harder choice. There are a lot of very good images that didn't make the final gallery.
In 2016, in the lead-up to the winter solstice at Newgrange, I released a series of images called The 12 Days of Solstice. Each day I released a new image until the day of the solstice itself. Here is that series of images, in one gallery, for you to enjoy.
A new book retells an ancient myth about how the great god Lugh of the Tuatha Dé Danann defeated the Fomorian king, Balor of the Evil Eye. The story is beautifully retold from versions of the tale told in County Donegal.
There are many archaeological monuments and features in the Brú na Bóinne complex. Some of these are very obvious in the landscape – there are passage-tombs, mounds, enclosures, standing stones and cursus monuments. However, others that are less obvious provide archaeologists with many questions.
It's been a busy few days here at Mythical Ireland headquarters. I've been packaging copies of my new book, Mythical Ireland: New Light on the Ancient Past, to be posted out to all those who pre-ordered copies here on the website.
Sometimes, the most interesting coincidences occur. Today, I was lucky to have been able to spend a few hours at Loughcrew in glorious winter weather. There was a mix of mist and fog, sunshine and cloud and the atmospheric conditions made for some wonderful photography.
A fascinating discovery in the darkness of a cave in County Clare has forced archaeologists to rewrite the history of Ireland. A bear bone found in the cave pushes back the date of human presence in Ireland by 2,500 years - to 12,500 years ago.
The first copy of my latest book, Mythical Ireland: New Light on the Ancient Past, was received within the past week. This is my fifth book and my third work of non-fiction. In this video, I give you a short reading from the book.
It's competition time. To celebrate the dual launch of my new book Mythical Ireland: New light on the Ancient Past, and the new-look www.mythicalireland.com website, I am giving one lucky follower the chance to win a copy of the new book.
The following is an excerpt from an extraordinarily prescient short story written by George William Russell (AE) in 1897. It appears to portray, in beautifully poetic and descriptive prose, the sun illuminating the chamber of Newgrange – long before the discovery and repair of the roof box in the 1960s. Until the excavations, the winter illumination of the interior of Newgrange hadn't been seen for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Watch the video below.
It's not exactly megalithic, although it was built with lots of stone. It's not exactly Neolithic, belonging more to the Medieval period. But the Old Abbey, tucked away in the centre of Drogheda not far from the main street, is a real historical and archaeological treasure. Its proper title is the Abbey and Hospital of St. Mary d'Urso.
In this video, I take a look at the location of many of the major monuments of the Boyne Valley using Google Earth, a free program which is very useful to those researching the megalithic sites. Google Earth has high-resolution satellite imagery of Ireland and in this video, we take a look at the situation of Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth, Tara, Slane, Millmount, and some of the other prehistoric sites of the Boyne region.
Here is a video I made last night (2nd November 2017) at the end of a long but exhilarating day, on which the new Mythical Ireland website went live AND I received the first printed copy of my new book.
What a momentous day it's been today. I didn't plan it this way, I can assure you, but the first two copies of my new book, Mythical Ireland: New Light on the Ancient Past arrived at my publisher The Liffey Press. And the new Mythical Ireland website went live too. On the same day. And it's Samhain!
The first evening of the new year was a glorious one at Newgrange in the Boyne Valley. The first sunset of 2017 was magnificent, followed by a descent into twilight that featured rich hues and colours, and then the crescent moon next to Venus, the Evening Star, made it a really gorgeous close to the day. In a couple of the shots, you might also catch a glimpse of Mars, which was trailing the Moon and Venus. I was lucky to be able to spend time there putting together this very special time lapse video. It might have been cold, but it was lovely.
The following is taken from a chapter of Candle of Vision by A.E. (George William Russell), published in 1918. The chapter is called The Celtic Imagination.To one who lay on the mound which is called the Brugh on the Boyne a form like that the bards speak of Angus appeared, and it cried: "Can you not see me? Can you not hear me? I come from the Land of Immortal Youth."
This large henge (embanked enclosure) located beside the River Boyne at Brugh na Bóinne, known on archaeological maps simply as Site P, has been identified tentatively by archaeologist Geraldine Stout as the site referred to in ancient lore as Caisel nOengussa, the Cashel of Oengus.
Many people look for meaning in the symbols carved in stone at the great monuments of the Boyne. Sometimes the most facile examination (and perhaps the most puerile too!) is to indulge in pareidolia. When I took this image at Knowth/Cnogba today, I was conscious of the image of the Cailleach, having been reading about her quite a lot lately. I will quote the lovely words of the late Patricia Monaghan, whose book 'The Red-Haired Girl From the Bog' I am currently reading:"Rock is the hag's prime element, her stony spine.... Cailleach time moves form moon to moon, harvest to harvest. It is pagan time, rooted in the eternal return rather than the once-off redemption."
37 years ago, in 1980, Martin Brennan, Jack Roberts and their team of researchers made several significant discoveries relating to the astronomical alignment of several ancient chambered cairns (passage-tombs) in the Boyne Valley region. One such discovery, made in early August of that year, was the apparent alignment of the passage of Cairn S at Carnbane East, Loughcrew. Sitting in the chamber of the (now roofless) cairn, Brennan and his team saw that the Lughnasadh cross-quarter sunset was visible through the passage.
Back in February of this year, at Imbolc, myself, Ken Williams and Lar Dooley witnessed the sunrise shining into the ancient passageway of Cairn U at Carnbane East, Loughcrew. That day, I noticed that when I was crouched in the chamber of Cairn U, the Hill of Tara was visible through the entrance of the passage. Based on that observation, I figured that a viewer on the Hill of Tara might see the sun setting over the hills of Loughcrew at Bealtaine (May) and Lughnasadh (August).