Mysterious Ancient Monument Revealed by Drought in Ireland
A huge monument that has remained hidden for centuries has been discovered in a farmerâs field in Ireland after a drought revealed its outline. While the nature of the site is still shrouded in mystery, experts are already hailing the find as âexciting.â
Anthony Murphy, an author, photographer and founder of Mythical Irelandâ"a website dedicated to the ancient myths and monuments of the islandâ"uncovered the circular enclosure, or âhengeâ, near the renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site of BrÃº na BÃ³inne (also known as the Boyne Valley), located around 30 miles north of the capital, Dublin.
He made the find in an area close to a previously known archaeological siteâ"dubbed Site Pâ"after being notified by University College Dublin (UCD) archaeologist Stephen Davis that it may be worth investigating.
The dry spell that Ireland has been experiencing in recent weeks was crucial to the identification of the henge, according to Murphy. He had read intriguing reports in some U.K. media outlets describing how new monuments were being discovered in Britain because of the drought there. So, hoping to find something, Murphy went out with his camera-equipped drone to image the fields near Site P, accompanied by a photographer friend, Ken Williams.Recommended Slideshows30In Pictures: Fujitsu Forum, One of Tokyo's Biggest Tech Shows3534 Must-Have Apps67The Best Pictures Ever Taken in Space
While the pair were flying their drones, a strange, circular shape appeared on Murphy's camera feed, which took them aback.
âWe couldnât believe it to be honest,â Murphy told Newsweek. âIt soon became apparent that were looking at something very very exciting.â
The images taken by the drone showed an enclosure made up of two main concentric ringsâ"consisting of what looked like post holesâ"with a diameter of about 200 meters. This led Murphy to conclude that the feature was some sort of giant henge-type monument.
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Finding a previously unknown henge in this area makes the discovery especially significant, according to Murphy, because not only has the Boyne Valley been extensively studied but these types of monuments are relatively rare.
âI was aware of the possibility that previously unrecorded things might show up, but I didnât think theyâd show up in the Boyne Valley because itâs been under intense scrutiny for the past few decades by archaeologists,â he said.
The monument has likely never been seen before because the archaeological features are buried beneath the surface where crops are growing, according to Murphy.
âOnly because of the drought has it become visible,â he said.
âWhat happens in a drought is that whatever residual trace amounts of water are left on the soil lodge themselves to a greater extent in the archaeological features [which have rotted away over time] than the surrounding soil,â he said. âTherefore, the crop that is growing out of the archaeological features has a slightly better water supply as a result.â
Because of this, the crop directly above the remnants of the ancient structure is slightly greener and healthier looking than the adjacent crop. This contrast produces an "image" of the long-vanished monument, which can be seen from above.
At present, it is unclear how old the henge is, but Murphy said it likely dates from some time between 3,150 B.C. and 2,500 B. C. during the late Neolithic period. The hengeâs function is even more uncertain.
âHenge monuments are designed to be inclusive, involving some sort of open-air gathering, ceremony or ritual,â Murphy said. âWhat that entails, we can only speculate.â
âWas it, like Stonehenge, possibly aligned to some solar event, like a solstice, sunrise or sunset? We donât really know.â
Murphy notes that it is unlikely further investigations will take place any time soon at the site because the land belongs to a private working farm. Furthermore, once the current crop is harvestedâ"something that is expected to happen within the next few weeksâ"the imprint of the ancient monument will disappear forever.
âThis thing will be completely invisible again,â Murphy said.
The ancient henge near BrÃº na BÃ³inne in Ireland.
Nevertheless, archaeologists are now examining the drone images, which are detailed enough that they could reveal important insights into the monument.
In a comment provided to Newsweek, Davis, from UCDâs School of Archaeology, noted the magnitude of the discovery saying that the site had some âunique featuresâ.
âThe most extraordinary and unexpectedâ"as well as inexplicableâ"part of the find is the segmented nature of the ditch,â he said. âIt appears to be a closely-spaced double ditch but with causewaysâ"sections that were not dug.â
âIn some early Neolithic enclosures we see that. These are known as 'causewayed enclosures'. But so far as I am aware this is entirely new for a henge-type monument. When I first saw the image, I thought 'causewayed enclosure' but it is far too regular and has other features which are very typically late Neolit hic.â
Irelandâs department of cultural heritage described the finding as a âwonderful discoveryâ which adds to the âmagical BrÃº na BÃ³inne archaeological landscape.â
The BrÃº na BÃ³inne Complex consists of three main prehistoric sites: Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, which are all situated on the banks of the River Boyne in the northeast of Ireland.
âThis is Europe's largest and most important concentration of prehistoric megalithic art,â according to UNESCO. âThe monuments there had social, economic, religious and funerary functions.âSource: Google News Ireland | Netizen 24 Ireland