The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian

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Patrickstown Standing Stone (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images (click to view fullsize)

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Kilmashogue Wedge Tomb — Images

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Slieve Beagh (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery) — Fieldnotes

Slieve Beagh is a low, ridge-back hill in north Meath, close to the Louth border and north-west of the town of Slane. Indeed it can be seen from the top of the Hill of Slane, amongst a larger group of hills and aligned west-south-west, east-north-east. A road traverses the northern side of the hill in Rathbranchurch townland. Between that townland and neighbouring Creewood, in an area about 500 metres by 250 metres, is the Slieve Beagh barrow cemetery, mostly to the south of the road.

The updated record at archaeology.ie says there are 26 barrows here, along with 3 raths, 6 houses of indeterminate age (presumably bronze-age) and 2 hut sites, one of which was excavated in the 1960s and given a date from the neolithic.

I’ve been here twice before and on both those occasions was impressed by the views, especially from the road below the cemetery. It reminds me of Tara and the way the ground falls away to the west and seems to go on forever. There are also extensive views to the east but these are blocked in places by a large gorse hedge. The land on that side of the hill is cultivated whereas most of the barrows are hidden in the gorse in a sheep pasture.

The actual monuments are increasingly difficult to identify as more and more gorse takes over. Walking up the track from the gate, the first you see are two enormous, conjoined and flattened round barrows, their banks visible but their ditches are gradually filling. After that it’s more difficult to identify anything, except what seems to be a central, focal bowl barrow, over two metres in height. The graffiti-carved stone still sits atop this, but the carvings are weathering and the whole of the barrow might soon be inundated with gorse.

I like this place. Most of fertile Meath is under cultivation, but this hill stands out, wild and wind-swept. The mystery of the barrows drew me back and retains enough pull to make me want to return. Maybe some day the landowner might cut back the gorse, or it may catch fire, and reveal some more of monuments.

Lugnagun (Passage Grave) — Images

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Dowth Henge — Images

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Slieve Beagh (Barrow / Cairn Cemetery) — Images

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Hill Of Slane — Images

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Dowth I (Passage Grave) — Images

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Crockaunadreenagh (Passage Grave) — Fieldnotes

Saggart Hill/Knockananiller/Crockaunadreenagh/Knockandinny sits at the western end of the chain of south county Dublin Hills, the northern edge of the Wicklow mountains. Have a glance at the bottom of Sheet 50 of the Discovery Series OS map and you’ll see that this chain is quite the megalithic playground, peppered as it is with a fair smattering of red monument dots. It also happens to be on the edge of the city and consequently is a favourite spot for non-megalithic adventurers, both benign and malign.

It’s almost exactly 14 years since I last visited here and I was looking forward to seeing the slight remains of the passage tomb and the neighbouring cairn. From back then I remembered a large, overgrown Knockananiller cairn, with the Crockaunadreenagh passage tomb remains over the usual countryside fence. What I encountered today made my heart sink. The forest walks on the hill are increasingly popular and there are mountain-bike trails running through them. More and more people use the hill as an amenity and as a drinking place. As a consequence, there is now a concentration camp-like electric fence separating the cairn on the public land from the ruined passage grave, not 15 metres away on private land in the neighbouring townland. The message here is plain and simple – fuck right off.

It’s not often that one feels like giving up on a place – to do so would be to give up on humanity and the little bit of love that we get from the passion we have for these places, but the absolute, complete wreck that is Crockaunadreenagh and the disdain shown for its neighbouring cairn by the outdoor drinkers and the mountain bikers, almost makes one want to. If you’re going to be that mean-spirited to erect the aforesaid fence, however you may feel about the lumpen attitude of the general populace, well keep it; in fact shove it so far up your…

I remember a short debate a few years back with Fourwinds about the derivation of Crock in Crockaunadreenagh and I think Julian mentions it somewhere in one of the books, and Fourwinds saying it’s an alternative to cnoc, or knock, meaning hill and that that’s where he reckoned the phrase crock o’ shit comes from – as more and more of south Dublin gets opened up and landowners get more and more paranoid, it’s in danger of becoming just that. Apologies but I can’t say anything better.

Slievethoul II and III (Cairn(s)) — Images

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Crockaunadreenagh (Passage Grave) — Images

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Crooksling (Round Barrow(s)) — Fieldnotes

The SMR entries for Dublin on archaeology.ie have improved over recent times. There are three barrows clearly marked now in Crooksling townland. These do not include the mound in my previous shots from 2013.

I did a flying visit to this barrow, on the eastern side of the Kiltalawn to Brittas road, opposite the aforementioned mound. It's quite clearly a round barrow, with bank, ditch and central mound, though with lots of interference and overgrowth.

Not exactly spectacular, but worth hopping the fence for a quick nosey.

Crooksling (Round Barrow(s)) — Images

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Boyne Valley Complex — News

Underwater study reveals possible quay at Brú na Bóinne


Conference hears many more discoveries could be made at archaelogical site

An underwater archaeological reconnaissance of the bed of the River Boyne near the Brú na Bóinne complex in Co Meath has revealed features that may represent log boats or man-made quays, a research conference was told on Saturday.

The sonar study, carried out by Annalisa Christie of University College Dublin and Dr Kieran Westley of University of Ulster, surveyed 10km of the river from Oldbridge to a weir 1.8km east of Slane Bridge.

Christie told the conference, titled The Pleasant Boyne and organised by the UCD school of archaeology as part of its world heritage programme, that it was likely that for the first visitors to this landscape, the river provided the easiest way to travel, offering an accessible route through a largely wooded landscape. As such, it represented a major communications artery, not just for local visitors but also connecting communities in the area to those from farther afield, such as Wales or even Orkney.

More: https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/heritage/underwater-study-reveals-possible-quay-at-br%C3%BA-na-b%C3%B3inne-1.4189765

Cunard (Portal Tomb) — Fieldnotes

Cabin fever struck around 8pm last evening so I made a quick dash for the Shed Stone, slightly beyond the 5 kms limit set by the powers that be (6 on the odometer), but still a local monument. It is quite hard to believe that it's been 14 years since I was last here.

There's a parking space on the Upper Cunard Road, south after the brook (Trumandoo?) that you must follow to reach the 'tomb'. I parked here, changed into my boots and headed down. The first time I was here (taken to it by Fourwinds - it's not marked on the map) I'd gotten my feet soaked, the boggy ground of Glassamucky Brakes/Cunard unforgiving in Spring, but not today. The recent good weather made for easy hiking.

The monument is hidden from the road, maybe 350 metres down and on the northside of the brook. The beauty of the location, so close to the city, brings a gladness to the heart. And it's ultra-quiet now, a few sheep farmers hereabouts tending to their essential work. There's deer on the Brakes tonight, venturing further down the Dodder valley than might normally be their wont.

And then to the stone. It's nestled above the brook on what seems like a levelled out platform, but there are a few of these on the way down and they may be natural. In fact, everything about the Shed Stone may be natural. The debate is still ongoing as to whether this is a tomb at all. The supposed entrance faces roughly south, towards the brook that babbles not 5 metres away, portal tombs and water being a generally accepted conjunction.

The capstone rests on two of the three stones beneath it. Healy says that these are three pieces of the one stone, split by the weight of the glacial erratic capstone, and I can see why he believes that. However, the underside of this capstone seems to have been worked to flatten it, though not into one sheer plane; there are two sections, the major one towards the ‘front’ of the stone. The rear of the ‘capstone’ rests on a fourth stone. There is the possibility that this small arrangement of stones were in situ and then the ‘capstone’ was placed on top of them, the assemblage being some sort of ritual monument and not a tomb. Maybe a fanciful theory, but an explanation for the working of the underside of the ‘capstone’. The natural groove around the ‘front’ of the ‘capstone’ adds to the theory that this stone was chosen, as opposed to to it being an accident of nature.

I spent a while here, drinking in the place. The colour of the day was leeching out as I headed back up to the road. Deer were heading south above me, back to the wilder hinterlands of Dublin county, and then the sun broke out over the back of Ballymorefinn, lighting up the hillside in an orange glow and I didn’t want the day to end. And then it was back to ‘civilisation’, and TVs and laptops, and pandemics.

Cunard (Portal Tomb) — Images

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Newgrange (Passage Grave) — Links

New Discoveries At Newgrange 1962 (RTE)


Short (almost 11 minutes) piece about Professor O'Kelly's excavations at Newgrange. This episode of ‘Newsview’ was broadcast on 14 August 1962. The reporter is Sean Egan.

Glassamucky Brakes (Standing Stone / Menhir) — Images

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France (Country) — News

Oldest ever piece of string was made by Neanderthals 50,000 years ago


By Michael Le Page

A piece of 50,000-year-old string found in a cave in France is the oldest ever discovered. It suggests that Neanderthals knew how to twist fibres together to make cords – and, if so, they might have been able to craft ropes, clothes, bags and nets.

“None can be done without that initial step,” says Bruce Hardy at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. “Twisted fibres are a foundational technology.”

His team has been excavating the Abri du Maras caves in south-east France where Neanderthals lived for long periods. Three metres below today’s surface, in a layer that is between 52,000 and 41,000 years old, it found a stone flake, a sharp piece of rock used as an early stone tool.

Examining the flake under a microscope revealed that a tiny piece of string (pictured top right), just 6 millimetres long and 0.5 millimetres wide, was stuck to its underside. It was made by twisting a bundle of fibres in an anticlockwise direction, known as an S-twist. Three bundles were twisted together in a clockwise direction – a Z-twist – to make a 3-ply cord.

“It is exactly what you would see if you picked up a piece of string today,” says Hardy. The string wasn’t necessarily used to attach the stone tool to a handle. It could have been part of a bag or net, the team speculates.

Read more: https://www.newscientist.com/article/2240117-oldest-ever-piece-of-string-was-made-by-neanderthals-50000-years-ago/#ixzz6JAE2zndN

Rath Maeve (Henge) — Fieldnotes

We'd been up at the crowded Hill of Tara sites, open to the public and increasingly popular, and felt the need to escape to somewhere quieter. Rath Maeve (misnamed, like the monuments up at Tara) henge is on private land, usually full of livestock with the banks overgrown and generally as unsatisfying as Tara itself. However, not today. We spent well over an hour here and got quite a sense of the place, but as usual left with as many questions as answers.

It's described as a henge on the SMR and is really rather massive, so you can see why some think it a hillfort. The interior is low dome-shaped and as a result, from ground level, it's hard to see the opposite bank in places. The bank on the northern perimeter is the best preserved and, in mid-March, not too overgrown to appreciate. The southern arc has quite a bit of bank remaining but doesn't rise to the same height as at the north, but, like at the north, falls away to a depth of about 4 metres.

The eastern edge of the bank has been flattened, with the modern road just skirting its edge. A modern field boundary cuts off the western sector from the rest of the monument and that portion was too overgrown to explore.

As mentioned above, the best preserved and most interesting part of the henge is at the north. There's a gap just west of north with a clear view up to the Hill of Tara. The back of the bank here resembles a defensive rampart more than a ceremonial enclosure and the construction is impressive. That said, I still had the sense that this was a place of ceremony.

Rath Maeve (Henge) — Miscellaneous

From archaeology.ie:

Described by Stout (1991: 257) as:
Rath Maeve is located on an escarpment which occurs on the summit of a ridge 1km south of the Hill of Tara. The soil is a grey-brown podzolic. A bank encloses an oval, dome-shaped interior with an overall diameter of 240m north-south by 275m east-west. It is best preserved in the north and south, where the bank reaches a maximum internal height of 2.5m, with a flattened top, and an accentuated drop to the exterior of 4m. In well-preserved stretches, the bank is 7-10m wide at the base. It reaches a maximum width of 15m in the West. The ground level surrounding the enclosure to the west is much lower than the level of the interior owing to its location on the escarpment. Thus the builders of this monument used a natural feature to enhance the size of the enclosing banks, and the shape of the natural escarpment dictated, to a certain extent, the ground plan of Rath Maeve. A townland boundary ditch runs outside the north-east section of the site; with dimensions of 1.5m wide and 1m deep, it could not have been the source of the bank. This material is most likely to have come from a scarped area, 25m wide, which can be traced along the inside edge or the bank. This gives the interior of Rath Maeve a domed shape common amongst the larger embanked enclosures. There are a number of breaks along the circuit of the enclosure, most of which appear to be the result of later disturbance. The original western (259 degrees T) entrance has a maximum width of 20m, and has been hollowed out of the natural escarpment. The townland boundary, which cuts across the western end of the monument, has an irregular kink and may have been diverted in this manner to respect an internal feature which was remove after the construction of the boundary. This occurs at the highest point within the enclosure, at a position where the entire site is visible. A circular cropmark, probably a ring-ditch lies north-east of this feature (L. Swan, pers. comm.). (Petrie 1837, 206; ÓRíordain 1964, 24; Evans 1966, 177)

Date of revision: 10 January 2017

This monument is subject to a preservation order made under the National Monuments Acts 1930 to 2014 (PO no. 2/2008).

References:

1. Evans, E.E. 1966 Prehistoric and Early Christian Ireland: a guide. London. Batsford.
2. Moore, M. 1987 Archaeological inventory of county Meath. Dublin. Stationery Office.
3. Ó Ríordáin, S. P. 1964 Tara: the monuments on the hill. Dundalgan Press, Dundalk
4. Petrie, G. 1837 On the history and antiquities of Tara Hill. Transactions of the Royal Irish Academy, 18, 22-232.
5. Stout, G. 1991 The embanked enclosures of the Boyne region. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 91C, 245-84.
6. Thornton, G. 1980 A survey of the earthen enclosures of the Boyne Valley and related sites. MA thesis, University College, Dublin.

Grainne's Enclosure (Hillfort) — Images

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The King's Seat (Round Barrow(s)) — Images

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Cormac's House (Hillfort) — Images

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Churchyard Stones (Standing Stones) — Images

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The Banqueting Hall (Enclosure) — Images

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Taxi-driving, graphic artist with a penchant for high hills and low boulders. Currently residing in Tallaght where I can escape to the wildernesses of Wicklow within 10 minutes.

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