Mythical Ireland Blog | Ancient Sites

What it means to be Irish

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.

 

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Video: The incredible accuracy of an ancient solstice alignment of Uisneach, Loughcrew and Slieve Gullion

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.

 

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Slane: of setting suns, setting moons and setting empires

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.

 

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Researchers hunt for flooded ancient landscapes in Irish Sea

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.

 

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The Beaker people and their replacement of Neolithic DNA - is this remembered in Irish myth?

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.

 

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Farewell 2017 – the year in photographs

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!

 

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Pondering eternity at the entrance to the great sídhe of Newgrange

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.

 

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Newgrange – Mythical Ireland's top 12 photographs of 2017

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.

 

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The 12 Days of Solstice

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.

 

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Archaeologists call it ME019-050, but they don't yet know what it is

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. 

 

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Life imitating art at Loughcrew

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.

 

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The bear bone that pushes back human presence in Ireland by 2,500 years to 10500BC

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.

 

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Win a copy of Mythical Ireland: New Light on the Ancient Past

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.

 

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The Old Abbey: a historical treasure in the heart of Drogheda

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.

 

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Momentous day - website launched, new book received

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!

 

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Caiseal Oengus, prehistoric henge site at Brugh na Bóinne

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.

 

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Lughnasagh sunset shines into the passage of Cairn S, Loughcrew

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.

 

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Tara and Loughcrew aligned for Lughnasadh sunset?

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).

 

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