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Subject:

Loughcrew equinox sunrise illumination featured at UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting in Dublin.

From:

Mike Heyworth <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

British archaeology discussion list <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Wed, 9 Apr 2003 11:00:51 +0100

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (80 lines)

From: Michael Fox [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: 08 April 2003 22:03

The illumination of the passage and chamber at Newgrange
http://www.knowth.com/newgrange.htm by the winter solstice sunrise is world
famous. Less well known is the event at the Spring and Autumnal Equinoxes in
Cairn T at Loughcrew  http://www.knowth.com/loughcrew.htm . A presentation
on Loughcrew at the 5 day UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting in Dublin
Castle this week will bring the wonderful Equinox illumination to a wider
audience. See below for the text of a press release from the meeting
http://star.arm.ac.uk/nam2003/

Slán,
Michael
-------------------------
Michael Fox
email [log in to unmask]
Website http://www.knowth.com/


ARCHAEOASTRONOMY LINKS STONE-AGE TOMB BUILDERS WITH SUN chaired by Clive
Ruggles and Frank Prendergast.

Scientific research at the prehistoric Passage Tomb Cemetery at Loughcrew,
one of Ireland's premier archaeological sites, is revealing new data on the
astronomical orientations of the passage tombs and relationships in the way
they are laid out. Using techniques from the science of archaeoastronomy,
this research has already identified significant astronomical orientations
in the larger focal tombs and significant patterns in the relative
orientations of the monuments. Frank Prendergast of the Dublin Institute of
Technology presents the results of his research to date at the UK/Ireland
National Astronomy Meeting in Dublin.

"By examing the relationship between the landscape, the monuments and
astronomy, we can complement existing archaeological knowledge and hopefully
gain insight into how prehistoric communities might have perceived their
place in the cosmos," says Frank Prendergast.

Loughcrew is a nationally important archaeological landscape located 70 km
north-west of Dublin in County Meath. It is the site of one of the four
major passage tomb cemeteries in Ireland and dates from the Middle Neolithic
(3600-3100 BC) and later. The principal type of monument is the passage tomb
and some 30 of these survive in varying condition. Typically they consist of
a circular cairn retained by a stone kerb. The tomb lies within the cairn
and may be roofed or unroofed. Megalithic art is often inscribed on some of
the stones within the tomb.

Previous investigations by archaeologists indicate that these monuments were
landmarks on the Neolithic landscape, and the larger focal tombs and their
smaller surrounding satellite tombs would have had a major impact on
prehistoric communities and their ritual and ceremonial practices.

Frank Prendergast's investigations show that two of the largest focal tombs
are oriented towards the rising Sun at the equinoxes. On these days, at dawn
and for a period of some 20 minutes afterwards, the interior of the tombs
are spectacularly illuminated by a shaft of sunlight. At these times, the
elaborate engravings on some of the stones within both chambers are clearly
visible in the otherwise dark interior. Equinoctial orientations are not
common and their interpretation is controversial.

It is well known that many such tombs found elsewhere in Ireland and beyond,
such as at Newgrange, are oriented towards the direction of the rising Sun
on the solstices. These are the days in December and June when the Sun's
motion in the sky reaches a 'turning point'. The direction of the rising Sun
reaches its most northerly and southerly points on these dates and these are
observable events. Our prehistoric ancestors would therefore not have
required any advanced understanding or knowledge to pinpoint them. By
contrast, the equinoxes, which occur in late March and September, are midway
between the solstices and are not obvious unique events: to locate them, an
observer must track the total annual range of the Sun's rising direction and
then divide it in half. The question that immediately arises is, "Why would
the tomb builders wish to do this?"  Even more intriguingly at Loughcrew,
there is a pattern of orientation between many of the smaller satellite
tombs - both towards each other and towards the two focal tombs.


Clive Ruggles (University of Leicester
Frank Prendergast (Dublin Institute of Technology)
Steve McCluskey (West Virginia University
Victor Reijs (Geniet Ltd.)

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