Sunday 16 June 2019

Newgrange discovery

The site of a new trench dug at Newgrange where a significant find has been made
The site of a new trench dug at Newgrange where a significant find has been made

Alison Comyn

Extraordinary discoveries at Newgrange seem to be like buses.

You wait hundreds of years for one to arrive, and two come at once!

In the same week as Anthony Murphy identified a new henge in the valley, local husband and wife team Dr Matt Stout and Dr Geraldine Stout have uncovered what appears to be a cursus, or ceremonial pathway within sight of the passage tomb.

'At the moment, we believe this routeway, which is similar to the Banqueting Hall at the Hill of Tara, is the same period as Newgrange, which is very exciting,' says Dr Stout, who is originally from LA, but has lived in Ireland since 1773.

'We have enough charcoal here to do carbon dating, however, we won't get any dates back for around two months.'

The discovery is part of the first research excavations at Newgrange, in over three decades, after a geophysical survey in 2015 by geophysicist Joanna Leigh showed numerous large pits, indicating an ancient processional way to Newgrange.

It's the first set of excavations since the 1980s at Newgrange and has been funded with a grant from the Royal Irish Academy with the support of the Redhouse family land owners, the OPW, DCU and Notre Dame University in the US.

DCU medieval historian and archaeologist Dr Stout says the find at the world heritage site is 'the most definite and ordered feature ever seen in a geophysical survey in Ireland".

'The main question is going to be the date, and it also would show the complex religious activity that took place in this region,' he said. 'And of course, the fabulous discovery of the new henge by Anthony Murphy also shows how many there were in the valley, and it was amazing to see it show up so clearly.

'To find a burial at the bottom of one of the pits would be the big payoff, but we'll have to wait for further excavations to explore that!'

Drogheda Independent