Ireland kicks off its National Heritage Week with even more new archaeological discoveries

 

 

Archaeologists discover 40 new monuments near Newgrange

Archaeologists in Ireland have discovered up to 40 previously unknown monuments – including early Neolithic houses, burial monuments and early medieval farmsteads – from the Bronze Age near Newgrange in Meath.

Newgrange is synonymous with the Winter Solstice where the dawn light illuminates the burial chamber and it is arguably the best known of the passage tombs in Brú na Boinne.

This World Heritage Site contains one of the world’s most important – and well-preserved – prehistoric landscapes.

The area surveyed included locations both sides of the River Boyne, within the bend of the Boyne and across from the megalithic tombs at Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, Co Meath. Dr Steve Davis, of UCD’s School of Archaeology, who has worked for over a decade on the Brú na Bóinne landscape, said the monuments appear to range from what are most likely “early Neolithic houses to Neolithic timber enclosures as well as Bronze Age burial monuments and some early medieval farmsteads.”

The surveys which revealed these new monuments were carried out as part of collaborative research between UCD School of Archaeology and the Romano-Germanic Commission in Frankfurt, Germany.

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

To date, the surveys have been funded by the German government. Dr Davis confirmed that a survey in 2017 unearthed what he described as a “spectacular” monument that is aligned with the Winter Solstice sunrise.

It is in a field just metres from the Newgrange passage tomb and he said it is “a key monument that is the largest and most complicated of its type in the world.”

While unlikely to be a tomb, it has significant “tomb-like features” and is 2-300 years younger than Newgrange, Dr Davis believes.

 

All of the surveys involved the use of “21st century archaeological technologies including satellite-based remote sensing, drones, airborne laser scanning and geophysics.”

“These methods have in the last few years changed our understanding of the Brú na Bóinne landscape beyond all recognition,” he said.

Dr. Knut Rassmann, a member of the Romano-Germanic Commission, who provided the infrastructure to survey hundreds of hectares of land for the project, said that co-operation between Frankfurt and Ireland has given the team “windows in the Boyne Valley so we have hundreds of photos and radar images which allow us to have an unprecedented overview of the landscape.”

Medieval artefacts found in ruins of Meath abbey

A medieval window found by a farmer in his Co. Meath field has led to the startling discovery of medieval pottery and old artefacts from what historians believe are the remains of a Cistercian settlement dating back to the 13th century.

The findings at Beamore, Co Meath are “quite exceptional and very possibly unique to Ireland”, archaeologists Matthew and Geraldine Stout, who are leading the excavations, said.

Locally, the existence of Cistercian monks was documented over the centuries in this part of Meath.

However, the precise location where they had settled was not known. John McCullen, the local landowner in question, who is also an author and local historian, felt for years that there was something of significance about the ruins in his field.

His family have been farming at Beamore for over 200 years and he recalls looking out on the ruins all his life.

McCullen recounted how a rich landlord had built a Georgian house in the field in 1720 after knocking down the original building.

“About 25 years ago, I had a few lads working for me when the top window fell off this building and I noticed red sandstone, which is not found locally. I asked the lads to put the window back up, but they had all kinds of excuses, so I climbed the 30 metres or so myself to re-insert it,” he told The Irish Times.

“I also noticed some old pigeon boxes which I found out since were used by people in the 16th and 17th centuries who used to eat pigeon and the eggs. So, I thought it might date back as far as that.”

After meeting with Ms. Stout, who has a keen interest in the history of the Cistercians in Ireland, McCullen decided to green-light excavations in his field.

McCullen approached the FBD Trust for funding and they agreed to fund €50,000 over a three -year period on the basis that the first month-long dig uncovered results.

Ms. Stout’s research found historical references to Cistercians trading 13th-century produce back to the “mother house” in France.

After this revelation, she realised Beamore could be a “very significant site”.

“Geraldine [Stout] had excavated at Bective Abbey in Meath, which was also home to the Cistercians, and she was very interested when I told her,” he said.

Culture and Heritage Minister urges Irish people to immerse themselves in ‘Ireland’s rich heritage’

The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, calls on the public to immerse themselves in Ireland’s rich heritage ahead of Heritage Week 2019 which takes place from the 17th to the 25th of August.

Over 2,000 events – most of which are free – are held throughout the country as part of the annual event which celebrates and helps promote our built, natural and cultural heritage.

The annual celebration, co-ordinated by the Heritage Council, includes hundreds of individuals and communities across Ireland who, every year, give of themselves to stage events and share their interest in heritage with the public at large.

Approximately 1,100 organisations and individuals, including our National Parks and Wildlife Service and our National Cultural Institutions, are involved in organising events. The Heritage Council works in cooperation with a wide range of public bodies, NGOs, community organisations and individuals. This year The Heritage Council’s chosen theme for Heritage Week is the celebration of Pastimes and Past Times.

Last year, more than half a million people attended events across the country, most of which were hosted by communities, volunteers and individuals who champion Ireland’s heritage in its many forms. More information about the events taking place across the country is available at www.heritageweek.ie.

Minister Madigan said: “There are so many events taking place and the great thing is that most are free, so it is a wonderful opportunity for people and families of all ages to participate and learn about our heritage in a relaxed and fun way.

“I pay tribute to the hundreds of volunteers, organisations and communities across the country who every year dedicate their valuable time and energy to stage events and share their passion for heritage with the wider public. Our heritage is at the heart of who we are and my Department is committed to ensuring that it is protected for generations to come.

“I wish everyone involved in Heritage Week 2019 huge success and enjoyment.”

 

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