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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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).