Shanore News

Musings, ramblings and thought provoking articles from our team of talented writers - all views expressed are their own!

Drought & Drones Lead to Discovery

The Boyne Valley is home to an amazing site of Neolithic structures decorated with intriguing and distinctive swirls and spirals. It’s a must-see for visitors to Ireland, and the island’s recent drought conditions have revealed that it is even more amazing than previously known. Historian Anthony Murphy, who has written extensively about the area, was flying his drone over the area around Newgrange when he discovered what appeared to be a large henge, or circular earthwork.

Archaeologists are now examining this thrilling discovery. So far, they have found six large kerbstones believed to have been part of a ring of stones surrounding the site. One features elaborate carving. They’ve also confirmed there are at least two burial chambers, and two other possible tombs. The henge is approximately 200 meters in diameter with a rectangular entrance.

The archaeologists are from Devenish, a private company, and University College Dublin’s School of Archaeology. They believe that this henge dates back to approximately 2,500 BC, meaning it is about 500 years newer than Newgrange. Evidently the Boyne Valley was an important area for generations of our ancestors.

Time will tell if this discovery uncovers any new ancient carvings. Newgrange is famous for the distinctive triple spiral carved on the entrance stone. Many experts believe it represents the pre-Christian triple goddess. The designs and the careful, precise engineering of these sites to allow the sun’s light to illuminate the inner chambers only on specific, important days has fascinated and intrigued us for generations. It’s also inspired some gorgeous craftsmanship, particularly in jewelry.

How the Weather Revealed This Site

Murphy told media that he’s flown drones over the same location previously, but never noticed anything there. But when things got so exceptionally dry, the site was detectable because moisture collects at the stones more  than the surrounding earth did, making their outline clear because the grass grows better in those spots. When the normal Irish rain is keeping everything lush, the site is undetectable.

This summer’s exceptionally hot, dry weather has dried out grass in fields across Europe, revealing many similar sites. Not far from this spot, dry weather also revealed the outline of Oliver Plunkett’s childhood house. But the Boyne Valley discovery is especially exciting given the area’s importance as a spiritual site for our ancestors. The finds there give us incredible insight into the lives of those ancient farmers and engineers. Those working on the site have called it the most significant find in Ireland in the last half century.

Scientists have advised that a combination of natural temperature fluctuations and climate change mean we can expect the next four years to be exceptionally warm. While that is alarming for many reasons, it does beg the question of what else might be discovered around the world and in Ireland. What might we learn about our ancestors? Will we find something that gives us greater insight into the passage tombs dotted around Meath? Might we develop a more concrete understanding of the beautiful designs carved on stones at these sites? Will the weather uncover other motifs?

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