Dublin – Irish archaeologists on Monday said they had discovered the remains of huge monuments dating up to 4 500 years old, just below the surface of the Hill of Tara, the traditional seat of the prehistoric kings of the country.
Located about 48km north-west of Dublin, Tara was the focus of political and religious life in pagan Ireland but the site was largely abandoned by the sixth century.
Mythology gives Tara, the gaelic for lofty place, an exalted status as the top royal site in Ireland.
According to legend, the country’s patron saint, Saint Patrick, had a confrontation with druids there when he converted the country to Christianity.
Archaeologist Joe Fenwick said the new discoveries had been made using geophysical techniques which allow underground features to be mapped.
“Last summer, we examined up to nine hectares on the summit of the hill and to the south and there have been some extraordinary new finds. The hill is producing fantastic results and is a hugely important monument.”
“The hilltop would have been used over several thousands years and the monuments range in date. Some could be Neolithic, some could be Bronze Age and some could be Iron Age.
“What we have discovered are indications of intense occupation involving ritual activity over a very long time,” Fenwick said.
In the late 1990s, a smaller survey of about five hectares on the northern end of Tara discovered a major henge or temple, believed to be up to 4,500-years-old, that would have been similar to Britain’s Stonehenge, only made of timber.
With rudimentary tools, Fenwick said construction of the monuments would have been an enormous task involving considerable manual labour drawn from settlements in valleys surrounding the hill.
“Just cutting down upwards of 300 mature oak trees to place in the post-holes around the major enclosure would have been an enormous undertaking involving a huge number of people,” Fenwick said. – Sapa-AFP
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