Introduction While such historical places such as Stonehenge and the structures of the Mayans and Aztecs have been at the forefront of attention regarding historical astronomical achievements, one should not leave out the ancient Irish when referring to great accomplishments in astronomy. Though not quite as famous, Ireland boasts many examples of technological marvels and precise measurements of solar and lunar activity.
Boyne Valley Complex Consists of 3 main sites- Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth Date back to approximately 3200-3700 BC –Among the world’s oldest remaining buildings –The Boyne Valley Complex dates back further than the Giza Pyramids and England’s Stonehenge
Newgrange is a circular megalithic passage tomb dating back to 3500 BC. Celebrates the winter solstice- light enters the roof box and emits light through the tunnel within Newgrange The light from the rising sun only illuminates the inside for 17 minutes.
NEWGRANGE Newgrange provides the backdrop for much of Ireland’s mythological legends. Newgrange was said to have been the place where the great mythical hero Cúchulainn was conceived by his mother Dechtine. Newgrange is also said to be the birthplace of Christianity in Ireland The name Newgrange means "the cave of Grainne," which is a reference to a lead character in the Fionn Cycle (Irish myths)
SYMBOLIC PETROGLYPHS Decorative petroglyphs indicate precise astronomical symbolic function. “As works of art or contexts of information, they focus the viewer's attention on man's place in the cosmos. …the location of outlying stones function as astronomical markers and also as sundials, and the motion of the sun, moon and stars.” Petroglyphs helped astroarcheologists uncover the significance behind many of Ireland’s astronomical structures.
KNOWTH With its two passages and 18 satellite mounds, Knowth is thought to have been used for lunar tracking. Drawings and carvings depict lunar calculations. Knowth is the middle child of the Boyne Valley Complex- constructed after Newgrange and before Dowth.
KNOWTH Lunar Calendar kerbstone- gives evidence that the people who constructed Knowth used the Metonic cycle Megalithic art in the cairn depicts lunar cycles including their calculations comparing 11 day difference between the lunar year versus the tropical year
DOWTH While not as famous as Knowth or Newgrange, Dowth’s significance comes during the winter solstice. From October to February, light comes into Dowth, shining on the center stones on the winter solstice. Dowth is the most recently discovered monument in the Boyne Valley Complex and is still be excavated today.
While the Boyne Valley Complex is the most famous of Ireland’s monuments, evidence of ancient astronomical observations can be found all over Ireland…
Other Significant Irish Sites Loughcrew (Co. Meath)- site believed to be older than Newgrange that celebrates the spring equinox. It’s ceiling may contain one the oldest maps of the night sky in the world. Ballynahattin (Co. Lough)- has been compared to England’s Stonehenge in it’s size and placement of the stones. Ballynahattin is believed to be older than Stonehenge due to the damage caused over the centuries
Conclusion While Ireland may not be at the forefront of international astronomical sites, it indeed deserves to be recognized for its achievements. The works of the ancient Irish people have survived thousands of years and are still around today to teach us about Ireland’s past and those who inhabited the land.
Bibliography Brennan, Martin. The Stars and the Stones. Thames and Hudson: New York, 1983. Ruggles, Clive. Astronomy in Prehistoric Britain and Ireland. Yale:New Haven, 1999. Knowth.com http://www.knowth.com/knowth-images.htm International Institute of Astroarcheology. http://www.astroarchaeology.org/context/ http://www.astroarchaeology.org/context/ Mythical Ireland.