Ancient Irish Monuments
You may have figured out that we like prehistory, so let’s define early Irish monuments. Hopefully, you’ll find this more interesting than our nieces did…. They pretended to be asleep in the back seat when we were exploring some of these sites!
We’ve talked about some of the early Irish monuments we’ve seen…, the passage tombs of Bru na Boinne and sites like the Hill of Tara…. But what are all those other monument spread around all of Ireland.
We’ll start with “Passage Tombs” like Newgrange and Knowth. These are round tombs with an identifiable passage that leads from an entrance to a burial chamber. They often have spectacular solar alignments…. The passage at Newgrange lights up during the Winter Solstice.
Some call these “passage cairns”, pointing out that they were burial chambers only for very influential people…. That instead of a grave, the chamber may be likened instead to a womb, and that they may have been linked to an earth goddess and fertility.
Interpretations aside, “Passage Tombs” are round mounds with passages and chambers.
Other types of tombs are “portal tombs” which are constructed of three or more massive standing stones and roofed with earth. “Dolmens” are the uncovered remains of “portal tombs”. One haunting “dolmen” stands out on the Burren. There are “court tombs” which are half-circles with a square in front, and “wedge tombs” which look like pie shaped versions of “court tombs”.
Moving on to other early Irish monuments, you have just plain aged “cairns” which are basically mounds of stones which may or may not contain a tomb.
Then you have Ring Forts. That sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? A fort shaped in a ring? Not so fast.
You’ve got “Cashels” which are ring forts built mainly of rock. “Crannogs” are ring forts built on small islands near a seashore and connected by a causeway. “Raths” are ring forts of ditch and earth-wall construction which was topped with a wooden palisade.
Hill forts are ring forts on hilltops. And Promontory Forts are self-explanatory…. Sometimes with one side consisting of a sheer cliff.
And then you get into “stones”…. You’ll find “Standing Stones” of course. We’ve talked about those before. They may stand unaccompanied or as part of a “henge monument.” “La Tene Stones” are standing stones with Celtic carvings. And “Ongham-Stones” bear inscriptions in a special language that was used in ancient times.
Among the more controversial “constructions” are “Ley-Lines”. These are supposed alignments; straight lines linking important sites or some say “power points.” Let’s just say that there may be a lot of uncertainty here, which leads us to….
Faires of course. Because it’s Ireland, you also will find references to Fianna and Fairy Hills. The scientific explanation is that after hundreds or thousands of years some monuments like passage tombs created legends around them that they might be passages to the “other world”.
Can’t tell your ancient Irish mounments without a scorcard… and there you have it…. crannogs, raths, fairy hills and all! Next you’ll be seeing leprechauns!
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News story posted on 2016-08-21T00:31:35