Dowth Henge - another solstice alignment at Brú na Bóinne that is often forgotten

Dowth Henge - another solstice alignment at Brú na Bóinne that is often forgotten

More than twenty-two years ago, on the day of summer solstice 2000, Richard Moore and I stood at the giant Dowth Henge (Site Q) and witnessed the sunrise coming up from the distant horizon, apparently in line with the two entrances to that great earthen enclosure.

 Anthony Murphy observing summer solstice sunrise at Dowth Henge in June 2000

We had suspected the great monument was aligned on the solstices based on measurements we had taken on maps, and decided to make an early morning visit to the Dowth Henge in June 2000. The photo above shows me photographing the sunrise at that time.

There was always some doubt about the alignment because the northeastern entrance of the Dowth Henge had been "mucked about" in recent centuries.

Summer solstice sunrise at Dowth Henge

My drone photo of summer solstice sunrise taken in 2017.

However, when Richard and I met Professor Ronald Hicks of Ball State University, Muncie, Indiana, by an extraordinary coincidence in Drogheda on summer solstice in 2005 (five years after our observations), he told us that he firmly believed the henge was indeed aligned on summer solstice sunrise (and probably winter solstice sunset too) and that he had said as much in a paper written in the 1980s.

Dowth summer solstice sunrise 2017

Summer solstice sun peeps through the clouds at Dowth Henge in 2017.

We published the story of our observations at Dowth in Island of the Setting Sun when it was first published in 2006. Our discovery was also documented in my 2019 book Dronehenge: The Story Behind the Remarkable Discovery at Newgrange.

A photograph taken by drone by Noel Meehan on 21st December 2016 appears to confirm that the Dowth Henge is also aligned on winter solstice sunset.

Dowth Henge winter solstice sunset by Copter View

Winter solstice sunset aligned with Dowth Henge openings. Photo © Copter View

Now, archaeologist Steve Davis of University College Dublin has suggested the alignment of Dowth Henge is indeed very close to summer solstice sunrise, as suggested by surveys of the site. Davis has surveyed the giant monument three times with help from Christine Markussen, Susan Curran and colleagues at the Römisch-Germanische Kommission (RGK). 

Tweeting today, on winter solstice 2022, Dr. Davis wrote:

"While we are thinking about solstices and Brú na Bóinne, at the other end of the valley, Dowth Henge may well align with the summer solstice sunrise. The great toilet-seat shaped enclosure has a narrow SW entrance (c. 9 m) with a pair of postholes, 3 m apart located 16 m in."

Dowth Henge alignment calculated by Steve Davis

The Dowth Henge (Site Q) alignment calculated by Steve Davis.

"Taking the mid-point of the SW entrance and the paired post-holes/pits gives a bearing of 50.5 degrees which is pretty darned close [to summer solstice sunrise position]," said Dr. Davis in a tweet.

Dowth Henge lies within the Devenish Nutrition Lands of Dowth, which is also in the news today because of their recording of megalithic art uncovered during excavations in recent years at Dowth Hall.

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