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.
Flying early on Monday morning, I sent my drone over the 'henge' field not expecting to see anything. But to my surprise, the monument dubbed 'Dronehenge' was visible on my drone screen, although perhaps not in the same spectacular detail as during the drought in July 2018.
It was great to be able to see it again, especially as Ken Williams was with me. He flew his drone too. It was a little bit like reliving that great evening of discovery when we found all these features last July.
I'm not quite sure why it has become visible again. We've had less rain this winter, but I can't imagine that the crop is struggling for moisture. This is winter barley, planted last September.
What these latest images demonstrate is the need for ongoing monitoring of the Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage Site, particularly from the air. I'm delighted to be able to make a valued contribution to the archaeological study of the Bend of the Boyne. The discovery, and the new imagery, demonstrate the value of 'citizen archaeology'. Drones are relatively inexpensive tools which were not available a decade ago. Now that we know these crop marks can show up at times other than during rare drought conditions, we should be initiating a programme of aerial reconaissance and research.
It's a very exciting time for the Boyne Valley. The Brú na Bóinne visitor centre is getting a €5 million makeover, and undoubtedly the recent discoveries in the valley will contribute to the new experience there. Our ideas about the size and scale of monument construction at Brú na Bóinne have changed. There was a lot more going on in the space between Newgrange and the river than we previously could have imagined. It's huge. Other features seen in last year's drought are also showing up nicely in the new aerial photography.
Another henge, labelled LP2, which is located in the same field as Dronehenge, is nicely visible in today's drone pictures. Its single segmented fosse is easily visible in the aerial imagery. Also easily visible is the Grooved Ware timber circle, known by archaeologists as a "four-poster" (because of its four central posts) in the northeast of the field at Newgrange Farm. Some archaeologists believe these enigmatic monuments were for mortuary purposes, and that the four central posts supported a wooden platform upon which deceased members of the community were placed for "sky burial", so that their corpses would be stripped of flesh by the birds.
It's only when you put things into perspective in terms of scale that you realise the size of these monuments. The Grooved Ware circle is the smallest of the circles in the field (the others being Dronehenge, site LP2 and a possible ringfort near the field boundary east of Dronehenge) and yet when you look at the image above with my car in the background you can begin to truly appreciate the scale of these things.