Dronehenge reimagined: 3D models of late Neolithic henge at 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 models were created by Turkish 3D artist Kerem Gogus following a request from henge co-discoverer Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland, who revealed the remains of the monument while flying his drone with Ken Williams over the Brú na Bóinne landscape last summer.

A 3D model showing what 'Dronehenge' might have looked like, with a human figure to show scale.

"This is very exciting because it shows us, for the first time, what this great monument might have looked like," Anthony said. "Lots of people have been asking me what this monument would have been like. They want to know if it was made of stone, or some other material. While the modelling is interpretive, we are told by archaeologists that the pits were likely post-holes supporting large upright timbers, possibly oak boughs, and that the double broken segments in the interior were likely to have been dug-out ditch sections."

An impression of Ireland's Stonehenge by Kerem Gogus.

The modelling was created by Turkish artist Kerem Gogus, who previously gained attention in Ireland when he modeled another destroyed monument - Ireland's Stonehenge near Dundalk in Co. Louth. His illustrations were featured in Anthony Murphy's book Mythical Ireland: New Light on the Ancient Past.

"There was only one depiction of Ireland's Stonehenge – a drawing by antiquarian Thomas Wright, published in his book Louthiana in the 1740s. Sadly, that monument was later destroyed and seemed to vanish into obscurity until archaeologist Victor Buckley discovered its footprint in an old aerial image. Kerem's 3D model of the monument brought it to life for the first time. We got a glimpse at something remarkable, a view into the remote past."

Dronehenge, the new henge of Newgrange, envisaged as it might once have looked, by artist Kerem Gogus.

"Now, Kerem has done it again. Because of his skill and dedication, we can envisage 'Dronehenge' (or can we call it 'Ireland's Woodhenge?) and perhaps see it as it might once have been. It was a truly gargantuan undertaking for a primitive society who had no metal tools, and was just one of eight known henges at the Brú na Bóinne Unesco world heritage site. We can only imagine how long it took to build – from cutting down the great trees that were needed for the timber posts, to digging the post-holes and ditch features, and then getting all the timber uprights into the holes and packing them in so they stood firm and upright. It's awe-inspiring."

Gogus worked on the 3D models for several months, and developed several prototypes or drafts which were continuously improved upon. "His dedication to the project has to be commended," said Anthony. "I've been a fan of his work for many years, since he created a 3D model of Newgrange in the early 2000s. He has made a valuable contribution to Irish archaeology."

The 'entrance' feature or annex reimagined in a 3D model by Kerem Gogus, with a human figure to give scale.

Scale

The Brú na Bóinne prehistoric monument complex was already incredibly impressive. Boasting the three largest passage-tombs in Ireland with Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, the world heritage site also features several dozen smaller passage-tombs and mounds, standing stones, linear routeways, henges and other features. But the drought of 2018 brought a whole new series of discoveries, which will provide material for scholars and archaeologists to study for many years into the future.

A National Monuments Service aerial imaging survey, carried out just days after Murphy and Williams had discovered the henge and other features in the vicinity, found evidence of a remarkably huge and complex designed prehistoric landscape. A total of 22 "new" or previously unrecorded monuments and features were detailed in the NMS interim report. And there are likely to be more monuments yet to be detailed.

An aerial image taken with Anthony Murphy's drone on the evening of discovery. See more images/videos here.

"One of the limitations of the aerial imagery," said Anthony Murphy, "was that it only revealed the shadowy, ghostly footprint of the monuments. It was very difficult, looking at the drone images of the new henge, to picture it in your mind – to imagine what it actually looked like."

What were the Boyne henges used for?

"We can only speculate on this," Anthony said. "They were clearly large, open-air monuments allowing for substantial gatherings of people. But what was the nature of these gatherings? Did they host elaborate ceremonies at certain times of the year, to commemorate certain festivals or feast days? Were they astronomically aligned, to allow for complex observations of the risings and settings of sun, moon and stars, as suggested in the folklore about Ireland's Stonehenge? Were they used for ritual sacrifices, such as those believed to have taken place at Pömmelte in Germany?"

A depiction of the henge under construction by artist Kerem Gogus. This model was changed because the wooden posts were deemed too thick and out of scale.

Were they even used, perhaps, as sporting arenas, something Murphy says is hinted at in the mythology of Brú na Bóinne.

An ancient story preserved in the 12th century Lebor na huidre (Book of the Dun Cow) and the late 14th century Yellow Book of Lecan might provide a clue, Anthony believes. In a story called Tochmarc Étaín (The Wooing of Étaín), Dagda, chief of the Tuatha Dé Danann, encourages his son Oengus Óg to go to Cnoc Síd in Broga (Newgrange) at the festival of Samhain to take possession of it from its owner, Elcmar.

Elcmar will be at Cnocc Síde in the Bruig with no weapon but a fork of white hazel in his hand; he will be wearing a cloak with a gold brooch in it, and he will be watching the three fifties of youths at play on the playing field.

A first almost-complete draft of the henge by Kerem Gogus was extremely promising (and very atmospheric!)

Where might this "playing field" be located? The Bend of the Boyne is a natural ampitheater. Newgrange sits on the crest of a ridge allowing it panoramic views of the area. An observer, such as Elcmar, standing on the top of Síd in Broga (Newgrange) would, in the Neolithic, have a sweeping view over a spectacular complex of huge and diverse monuments. A series of seven henges would be visible from the great passage-tomb, including the one we call 'Dronehenge', featured in Kerem Gogus's new 3D models.

Could Dronehenge, or Ireland's Woodhenge, have been a sporting arena?

"If there were sporting activities involving 150 people, certainly one can imagine the giant henges as suitable playing fields," Murphy commented. It had been suggested after last summer's discovery that Dronehenge could comfortably fit 1,000 people in its interior.

In close proximity to Dronehenge would have been two other henges of similar scale – the one to the west labelled Site LP2 (discovered by the INSTAR project in 2010) and Site P, an embanked henge a little to the east of Dronehenge. These three giant henges, sitting in a row near the river, might have offered giant sports or games arenas in prehistory. It's speculation, but the myth might offer an insight into an obscure facet of Brú na Bóinne's incredible and complex prehistory.

Valuable work

"We might never know what these enormous monuments were used for. But we can take one step closer to 'seeing' them, and interpretive work like this is valuable in that regard because it's quite possible that these images will prompt further lines of inquiry."

A view from the interior of the henge at Newgrange, reimagined in this artist's impression.

The new 3D images offer us the opportunity to imagine ourselves as spectators, looking deep into the past. 

"What's most incredible about Dronehenge is that a monument of this size (over 150m, or 500ft in diameter) lay completely hidden in the landscape throughout modern history, obscured from the prying eyes of archaeologists, and only became visible because of a rare prolonged dry spell, during which no rain fell at Brú na Bóinne for over two months, starving the wheat crop that was growing in this field of water."

See a drone video of the henge image captured on the week of discovery in July 2018 by Anthony Murphy:

 

After the crop was harvested, the image of the henge disappeared. The only reminder we have of it now are those fateful drone images taken on the evening of Tuesday 10th July 2018 by Anthony Murphy and Ken Williams. 

A rectangular-shaped feature at the northwest of the henge has archaeologists puzzled. 

But now, because of the fantastic work of Kerem Gogus, the monument is being revealed to us again. "These are not definitive images providing us with an absolute and complete picture of Dronehenge. But they offer us a glimpse into an ancient and forgotten world, and the giant monuments of a people who were utterly committed to their construction projects. The modelling allows us an impression of what might have been possible. These are the closest thing to actually going back in time and taking a photograph that we can hope for."

A composite showing various drafts during the creation of the 3D model of the timber henge at Newgrange.

About the artist

Kerem Gogus is a photographer and concept artist currently living in Turkey. His interests range from photography to arts and music. He has worked with musician David Arkenstone for his Myths And Legends audio visual DVD, Loveren music album and Journey To Light project. He has rendered album covers for musician Karin Leitner for her Magic series, and also worked for guitarist Michael Gabriel for his album cover. His work on Ireland's Stonehenge appeared in the Mythical Ireland book and the Dundalk Democrat newspaper. A few of Kerem's personal concept artworks featured in international press and others won awards in international contests. See more of Kerem's work on Instagram here.

Also visit his blog for more information.

A view depicting the interior of the late Neolithic henge.

Further reading

The new henge of Newgrange - a once-in-a-lifetime discovery - blog post written shortly after the discovery.

The new henge of Newgrange - the moment of discovery recalled - a blog post recalling the events of that exciting evening when Anthony Murphy and Ken Williams found the henge with their drones.

Fantastic new details emerge of monuments discovered near Newgrange during 2018 drought - a summary of the National Monuments Service report into the discoveries.

The newly discovered henges and features at Newgrange; some photos, facts and figures - a blog post by co-discoverer Ken Williams.

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This page was last updated on 18th January 2019 @ 11:48 PM