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Sunday 18 August 2019

'Spectacular' monument aligned with the Winter Solstice found near Newgrange

Archaeologists have identified about 40 previously unknown monuments near Newgrange in an 'exceptionally successful' survey. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson/DR Steve Davis
Archaeologists have identified about 40 previously unknown monuments near Newgrange in an 'exceptionally successful' survey. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson/DR Steve Davis

Elaine Keogh

Archaeologists have identified about 40 previously unknown monuments near Newgrange in an "exceptionally successful" survey.

And they have confirmed the discovery of a "spectacular" monument aligned with the Winter Solstice sunrise.

The monument is believed to be 200-300 years newer than the Stone Age passage tomb of Newgrange.

Newgrange, arguably the best known of the passage tombs in Brú na Bóinne, is closely linked to the Winter Solstice.

At that time, the dawn light illuminates its burial chamber.

Dr Steve Davis of the UCD School of Archaeology, who has worked for more than a decade on the Brú na Bóinne landscape, said the new monuments appear to range from early Neolithic houses to Neolithic timber enclosures as well as Bronze Age burial monuments and some early medieval farmsteads.

History: Prof Eszter Bánffy, director of the Romano-Germanic Commission, and Dr Knut Rassmann have been at work near Newgrange. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson
History: Prof Eszter Bánffy, director of the Romano-Germanic Commission, and Dr Knut Rassmann have been at work near Newgrange. Photo: Ciara Wilkinson

The area surveyed included locations on both sides of the River Boyne, and across from the Megalithic tombs at Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

The "spectacular" monument was first discovered in a field metres from the Newgrange tomb during a survey in 2017.

Dr Davis has not spoken before about the significance of this monument but believes that it probably developed over several phases.

It comprised a large, rectangular arrangement of wooden posts enclosing a timber or stone passage and themselves enclosed by several rings of smaller timber posts.

He believes while unlikely to be a tomb, it is 200-300 years younger than Newgrange.

Dr Davis said yesterday that all of the surveys involved the use of "21st-century archaeological technologies".

They included satellite-based remote sensing, drones, airborne laser scanning and geophysics.

The surveys were carried out as part of a programme of collaborative research between UCD School of Archaeology and the Romano-Germanic Commission, Frankfurt.

The research is for the Boyne to Brodgar project, which is examining connections between Neolithic sites between the Boyne Valley and the Orkney Islands.

The surveys to date have been funded by the German government.

Irish Independent

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