Island of the Setting Sun: In Search of Ireland’s Ancient Astronomers (Out of print)
(Published 2006 by The Liffey Press. Revised and expanded and republished 2008 NOW OUT OF PRINT)
OVER five thousand years ago a most sophisticated and enigmatic community of people began to arise on the island of Ireland. They were the megalithic builders of the Stone Age, cunning engineers and master astronomers who systematically assembled a vast calendrical and astronomical scheme which would stand intact over five millennia. Today, the individual monuments which each form a part of that complicated astronomical assembly lie decaying in the landscape, straddling the Boyne river, which in ancient times was named after the Milky Way galaxy and was considered its earthly equivalent. Archaeologists have been probing individual sites over the last fifty years, and have been revealing intriguing information, carvings, artefacts and dating material which, as well as answering many questions, pose even more about the purpose and genesis of these great monuments. Perhaps more importantly, some of the ancient stone sites continue to function more than five millennia after they were constructed, with famous examples, such as Newgrange and Dowth, featuring alignments to the winter solstice sun.
In Island of the Setting Sun, a greater story of their genesis can finally be told. As these sites awaken from the slumber of five thousand years, we can more definitively describe their true purpose – to track time, vast periods of time, to bring the sky down on to the ground in a grand astronomical scheme.
The authors’ exploration of the sky-ground system is taken from an array of perspectives, most notably through the ancient stories about these places – some of which may be as ancient as the sites themselves. Within the complex layers of myth, folklore and placename stories lies a concealed astronomical language. Interpreting these coded cosmological messages, the authors have found that together the landscape, the astronomy and the myth reveal the true intent of the megalithic master builders of a time when giants were said to rule the land.
In this lavishly illustrated book, many disparate ideas and connections are explored, including the invasion myths of Ireland; the link between the ancient astronomers and St Patrick; the “pleasant plain” among the stars; the exciting rediscovery of “Ireland’s Stonehenge”; the true inspiration behind Newgrange’s white quartz façade; the many faces of the “sword-wielding giant” that is Orion; the migratory patterns of whooper swans; the female reproductive system and its importance to the mound-builders; the eight-year moon-Venus cycle; and a plethora of stories about such things as un-derwater spears, giant hounds, tragic drownings, cruel murders, vast battles, strange animals and the Irish cyclops. In short, Island of the Setting Sun provides a revision of how we look at prehistory in Ireland.
“Who but I knows the place where the sun sets? Who but I knows the ages of the moon? What land is better than this island of the setting sun?” – Amergin, astronomer and poet, 1694 BC
Kenny's Irish Bookshop - Book of the Month March 2007 (Science & Nature):
"This is a refreshing and fascinating new book on the ancient monuments of Ireland more specifically those of the Boyne Valley . . . The first paragraph gives a delightful taste of things to come . . . What follows is a wonderful magical book, sumptuously illustrated and a must for anyone who loves to delve deep into our past."
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