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|The Cry of the Sebac - my new novel
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|Newgrange: Monument to Immortality - click here
"A fascinating insight into Ireland's ancient burial sites" - Irish Independent
henge - Summer Solstice sunrise alignment discovery
Click on this image to see a larger view of this amazing structure.
Site Q is a large henge, or embanked enclosure, located roughly
east of the Dowth mound. It is reputedly the second largest such
enclosure in Ireland (Coffey 1912, P.60). From the air, Site Q appears
egg-shaped, similar in shape to Newgrange,
and has two openings, one at the south-western side and one opposite
at the north-eastern side. These openings are aligned to Summer
Solstice sunrise, as confirmed by observations made by Mythical
Ireland on the morning of June 23rd, 2000, but there is considerable
doubt over whether both openings were part of the original structure.
The earthen banks of this enclosure rise up to 5 metres in height.
above photographic diagram demonstrates how we first noticed the
alignment of the enclosure's gaps was consistent with the Summer
Solstice sunrise. We took a compass reading of 58º, which when
corrected for true azimuth gives 50º, so we were fairly certain
the alignment was accurate. The photo on right shows the area of
horizon which the alignment points to. For a ground plan of Site
Q, click here.
readings were initially taken on a site visit to the enclosure on
April 14th, so we had to wait over two months to confirm our observation.
It has to be noted that the alignment probably covers 5 or 6 degrees
of azimuth, and so is only a rough alignment, plus there is some
difficulty with choosing a point from which to observe the phenomenon.
We tried to locate ourselves behind the southwestern gap, roughly
halfway between the bank on either side. It has been suggested to
us that perhaps any observations made at the site, if that was indeed
the purpose of the enclosure, would have been made from inside the
banks, not outside, perhaps somewhere near to the centre of the
site. There is no clear evidence that the centre of the site was
marked, as there are no standing stones or other features to indicate
arrived at the site at 4:40am, we were unsure if we would see
any sunrise due to an overcast sky, and the fact that it was raining
left us believing we would miss the opportunity to see the alignment.
However, at just after 5am we did see the sun rising over the
distant hill of Clogherhead (incidentally called in Irish Cloch
Ór the Golden Stone¹, perhaps a reflection
of how the golden sun bathes the hill with light).
a news article in the Drogheda
Independent about our discoveries. See this
page for a ground plan and aerial photograph of the site.
Sun was visible for a few minutes, but that was enough to secure
It is important
to state that archaeological evidence suggests the northeastern
gap in the enclosure was not contemporary with the construction
of the enclosure.*
"Embanked enclosures of the Boyne region", Geraldine
Stout, proceedings of the RIA, Volume 91, C, Number 9 (1991).
Other sources also cast doubt on the presence of the northeastern
gap. Although the second edition Ordnance Survey map shows two
gaps, the first edition does not show the NE gap, but rather indicates
a clump of trees.
Geraldine Stout, who undertook a major study into these enclosure
structures in 1991, says the following: "The enclosing bank
is breached in two diametrically opposed places; the more definite
of the two breaks occurs in the southwest (227ºT), for a
maximum distance of 20m, narrowing to 12m. The second opening,
in the north-east (55ºT), was marked by a dotted line on
the O.S. first edition map . . . A slight rise and a definite
fall to the exterior along this opening in line with the bank
make it highly probable that this opening is not contemporary
with the construction of the enclosure".
alignment raises some interesting questions about these gaps and
indeed about the function of the site. The astronomical evidence
is interesting to say the least, and it is our view that the site
most probably marks the sunset on Winter Solstice. But the whole
function of the site cannot be stated without further investigation.
It is Mythical Ireland¹s hope to carry out a study of the
site with an archaeologist and a surveyor in order to find out
more about this possible Winter Solstice function. In the meantime,
it is worth noting that the nearby Neolithic passage mound at
Dowth has a passage which is aligned
on the setting Winter Solstice sun.
It must be
mentioned that no archaeological digging has taken place here,
and the structure is well preserved. "Dowth is unique within
the group in having a well-preserved bank width of approximately
20m, rising to an average height of 4m." (G. Stout, 1991).
A date of 2000BC is given as the beginning of the period of ritual
circle construction in the Boyne region. Of the thirteen enclosures
in this region, only one, at Monknewtown, has been excavated.
A ringfort, called Site M near
Knowth, was excavated during the summer of 2002 and was found
to be an Early Christian habitation site.
of excavations is planned for Site Q, but a dig at this site could
yield some very important information about the date of construction
of this monument, and whether the NE gap was part of the original
henge site looking from the inside towards Dowth Hall, which is
nicely lined up in this photograph with the gap on the south-western
end of the enclosure.
| An overall
view of Site Q, Dowth Henge, from the north-east. Note the gap on
the north-eastern side of the enclosure.
To learn more
about henge enclosure sites, visit this
An interesting theory about henge enclosures - click
to the Dowth page