This summer we found ourselves, in the unexpected sunshine of Ireland, exploring the megalithic wonders of the Boyne Valley. Never content with tour guides and their half-baked stories of the why and what of a thing, we went off-piste as much as possible, getting lost more than once in the process.
The roof above this monument is a red herring. Essentially a modern concrete dome built to preserve the original stone ring structure. This rises only to the height of the chamber lintels and was likely open to the elements. There may have been a thatched roof, supported on a central wooden post (now missing).
Tracking down the key was a bit of a trauma. “Are you the WOMAN who phoned?” Erm… no?!? “OK, here’s the key!” Whether the (presumably) manly sounding WOMAN who phoned would have been given access is still under debate… (You will need to leave a refundable deposit, and have MASSIVE pockets to accommodate the keyring, which is about the size of the monument itself… The door just needs a good “shoogle” to allow the lock to turn… )
The entrance faces 17º west of north, on an alignment which directly faces its more famous big brother at Newgrange. The entrance chamber has been shown to align with the helical rising of the “W” shaped constellation of Cassiopeia, an event which coincided with the rising of the winter solstice sun at the time it was built: hence observations simultaneous at the two locations effectively confirm each other.
Inside, the standard cruciform floor plan is adhered to, with a recess off the central chamber in each of the remaining cardinal directions. The lintel above each is decorated with the same motif. I’ve caught it best above the western recess (left).
Various authorities have suggested water symbol, western neolithic ying-yang, Cassiopeia, an expansion of the sacred number Phi, and all sorts of other dubious claims, for which there is little more than tenuous evidence, designed to support the favoured theory of the “authority” concerned in the claim. Let’s just accept it as a pretty, pleasing, universal pattern form which appears worldwide in a variety of cultural settings.
An interesting figure sits to the west of the main chamber, unexplained by any of the guide materials. Trying to get a decent image in the pitch darkness was nigh impossible, and this is the best offering, I’m afraid. I like to think of it as a goddess form, reminiscent of many such depictions found around the globe.
This, of course, is tantamount to the same dubious claims I’ve just accused others of, so shouldn’t be taken at all seriously as a possible explanation, meaning, or import of the glyph to those who diligently chipped it onto the surface of the stone in the first place..
A series of interlocking rings appear on the eastern side of the passage roof. Again, all but impossible to get an image which I’m satisfied with.
This motif, we would later find, appears everywhere and must, therefore, have contained great significance for the neolithic builders who put so much time, energy and resource into the creation of these magnificent monuments.
Finally, the famous “earliest representation of a human face in Ireland”. This has to be greatest “dubious claim” thus far, unless neolithic Ireland was filled with an as yet unidentified diamond nosed, one diamond eyed race now thankfully extinct. A decent image was completely impossible to capture. A feather and amethyst offering, left by a previous visitor on top, I can give, but don’t think it adds much to our understanding of the place.
The image (left) (shamelessly stolen from irelandinpicture.net) shows, clearly, a constipated baboon / proboscis monkey / frog on a lily pad / early depiction of an Irishman… (delete as you see fit – though be warned, I will be very disappointed if you side with the archaeologists on this one!).