KNOWTH MAY HAVE LINKS WITH BRITTANY
ACCORDING TO NEW BOOK
Deep within the tomb of Knowth, Co Meath are spiral and lozenge designs believed to have originated in Brittany, according to Secrets of the Stones – Decoding Ireland’s Lost Past, a fascinating new book from writer/photographer Rob Vance. The author examines what meaning these symbols may have had for those who entered the tombs and whether the tombs were ‘soul banks’, places where tribal spirits awaited re-entry through the newly born.
And while there may be some 300 passage tombs in Ireland, Knowth has more carved stones than all others combined. A very substantial art gallery, it contains twenty-five percent of the megalithic art of Western Europe and twice as many decorated stones as the entire Iberian Peninsula.
Secrets of the Stones – Decoding Ireland’s Lost Past uses the latest of modern technology to decode Ireland’s distant lost past, extending back as far as the Bronze Age of some 3,000 years ago. It reveals new information about how Irish society changed and adapted to challenges from outside, including meteor strikes and volcanic eruptions.
The book, which accompanies a two-part RTÉ television series broadcast on April 13 and May 4, reveals how a volcano in the 6th century AD may have played a part in the Christianising of Ireland by frightening the pagan Celts into believing in the ‘new’ god. The author illustrates how during the Bronze Age, a comet passing close to earth part-disintegrated, sending fireballs and flaming debris across the skies, creating a dust-veil event that caused the temperature to drop dramatically and ruined the agricultural society that built the tombs of Newgrange and the Boyne Valley. Evidence from trees long buried in the bogs of Offaly show that there was no sun for ten years after this meteor strike.
The book and TV series use a radar scanning technology called LiDar to discover the remains of a city with streets and houses under Clonmacnoise. High-Definition CGI (computer generated imagery) is used to reconstruct a vast circular arena under the Hill of Tara that was used for ritual and ceremony but forgotten for several thousand years, tombs from Sligo and the Boyne Valley, an early Christian monastery and a Cistercian Abbey, redefining what these structures looked like and what kind of lives the people lived.
Author Rob Vance says of the book: “We have tried to ‘open up’ areas of Irish archaeology and early history by exploring new ideas and theories. Climate change, especially global warming, is seen today as a man-made phenomenon but several times in the past, serious social upheaval happened when the temperature dropped due to outside factors. Agricultural societies, no matter how advanced, are made up of farmers and their families and they simply could not cope with a dark sky… after a while everything died.
“We have also tried to give a more comprehensive picture of Ireland about 1,000 years ago… it was a complex society, yet functioned well, if not better than a lot of Europe. Ireland was a powerhouse of creative ideas, expressed in art, philosophy and objects of beauty. And, importantly, it was connected to Rome, the ‘Brussels’ of the medieval period, where developments in organisational ideas and career opportunities were to be had. The Irish brought a lot to Europe and took a lot back.”
Secret of the Stones is fully illustrated with HD images from the series, stunning new photographs by the author and manuscripts from the library of the Royal Irish Academy. There is a foreword by Peter Harbison. Published by Ashfield Press, it is on sale in good bookshops nationwide (€19.99) and from www.ashfieldpress.com