Locations in Wales

Ffynnon Rhedyw - the oldest known sacred well sites in Wales.  It is located in Llanllyfni, near Caernarfon.  The Gwynedd Archaeological Trust is working on restoring the site, creating information boards, etc. in 2006.  This was an important site, and in fact was a pagan pilgrimage spot en route to Bardsey island.

Anglesey - this site was the core religious site of the Druids, with it's spiritual epicenter a sacred grove. It is an island located off of the northwest coast of Wales.  The main island is separated from Wales by the Menai Strait.  Off of this sacred island lies another island which is considered part of the county of Anglesey called Holy Island.  This name has been given to the smaller island because of the large number of standing stones and burial cysts which remain on the island.

Anglesey was attacked by the Roman General Suetonius Paullinus to destroy the seat of power of the Druids.  He destroyed the central shrine and the sacred groves in about 60 AD.  This is the same Roman General who ordered the rape of the daughters of Boudicca, Queen of the Iceni, while she was beaten by Roman soldiers.  If you are unfamiliar with the story of Boudicca - she started a great revolt against the Romans but in the end was not successful.

There still remain 28 dolmens (or cromlechs) on the Island of Anglesey overlooking the Menai Strait along with a number of standing stones throughout the island.

In April 2006, the Guardian published an article announcing that a decorated burial slab created over 4500
years ago was discovered.  The slab found at Barclodiad y Gawres was for the dead and their guardians and was covered with a chevron design and a cup ring mark on the northeast corner of the capstone.  This is the 6th such slab discovered at this site, although the others have different designs. Archaeologists generally agree that the carvings deep within the passage graves must have been part of a complex ritual of the dead. In tombs like Barclodiad y Gawres, carvings are only visible from within the tomb, and often have marked thresholds, lintels or entrances to the chambers.


A map of Anglesey to re-create the original site as
drawn by the Rev. Henry Rowlands in 1723

Ballochroy Stone Row, North Kintyre:  this stone row overlooks the Sound of Jura, and is aligned not only with the summer solstice but with peaks on the mountains of the island of Jura.  Built around 1800 BC, the solstice sunrise can be followed looking at the stones and the mountains in alignment, and if you stand in a specific spot for the sunset at that time, you can see a "green flash". Looking at the row and viewing Cara Island to the South West, it is also aligned with the winter soltice.  however, this alignment is  not as reliable at the summer one.


Copyright © Clive Ruggles, University of Leicester.

Locations in England

Milfield Village, Northumberland - this is thought to be one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Britain with 9 ritual centers.  Found in a Northumberland quarry, so far archaeologists have uncovered 3 buildings from the early Neolithic period (4000 BC) 3 from the later Neolithic period (abt 3000 BC), tools, pottery, ritual objects and a human burial pit.  

The vicinity is dominated by the Yeavering Bell hill fort, built 1,000 years after the huts and henges found so far. The buildings are surrounded by timber and earth bank henges very close in date and it is assumed they must have been built by the same people.  Each building was rectangular and made of timber and possibly thatch. The largest was 13 metres long and 5 metres wide. The houses are 900m from a series of henge monuments - the largest of which was 100m in diameter and surrounded by banks, ditches and scores of wooden obelisks.  

There is an even earlier settlement from 6000 BC which appears to have consisted of two roundhouses and a grain storage building - and reveals evidence of prehistoric ritual practice. Inside one of the houses, archaeologists have found the remains of an adolescent human skeleton buried in a pit. It is possible that this person was a close relative who the inhabitants of the house wanted to keep within the family, even after death.  This site also had 3 storage pits; in one pit archaeologists have found a rough-out for a carved stone ball, of a type thought to have been used in rituals.  

Stonehenge - there is too much for a quick review, so please click on the link to learn more about
Stonehenge.

 

Locations in Scotland

Callanish Stones - located on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Hebrides.  This is s tone circle with 4 avenues leading towards it, one of which with 2 rows of stone.  The stones here are slender and tall. Every 18.61 years, a major lunar standstill occurs and the circle is in alignment with this effect.  The moon appears to pass within the stones during this time.  If a person stands on a rocky hillock at the higher south end of the site, the moon is dramatically "reborn" with a person silhouetted within it.
     The stones tower to a height of nearly 13 feet high and the main monument covers an area around 3 square miles. The circle itself comprises 13 upright stones with a huge megalith at the centre marking a later burial cairn. Callanish is different though The stone settings that run away from the circle in the form of a cross and the presence of at least six other stone circles in the vicinity.
     Local folklore says that on midsummer morning "the shining one" (the god, Lugh) walks between the stones.

Locations in Ireland - Republic of Ireland

Tara - also known as Temhair in Irish, was the seat of political power as well as a sacred site.  It was one of the entrances to the otherworld. The earliest part of the site dates to the neolithic era with the Mound of
Hostages
, which is aligned for both Samhain and Imbolc. There are over 30 visible monuments, and many more sites unseen.  Just recently a large temple was discovered.  This is also the site of the Stone of Destiny.

Image of Tara from mythicalireland.com

Locations in Ireland - Northern Ireland


Image from the interior of Newgrange.
 Image from www.knowth.com

 

 

 

 

 

 


Image of the exterior of Newgrange
with standing stones.  Image courtesy
of www.knowth.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Solar imagery of Dowth from
www.knowth.com

 

 

 

 

 


Image of the mound of Knowth
courtesy of www.knowth.com

Newgrange, Dowth,  and Knowth

These Irish Neolithic sites are situated near each other and share some common traits.  They have all been positioned on top of hills in the Boyne valley, to make them stand out even more against the landscape and are the largest examples of circular cairn tombs each at about 280 feet in diameter.

If you want additional information about these sites, I recommend checking out
www.knowth.com

Newgrange

The monument at Newgrange, in County Meath Ireland, is an incredible Neolithic site.  By later in the Neolithic period it looks like the site had stopped being used for ceremonial purposes, because we have evidence of more domestic life during that time.  It looks like this coincided with the collapse of the southern side of the monument.  On this page though, I'm going to focus on Newgrange at its zenith.

Newgrange has a vertical retaining wall about 10 feet high.  On its north side, Newgrange is built of ordinary stones.  On it's south side, which is the entrance, Newgrange's retaining walls were built of gleaming white quartz and grey granite boulders.  Surrounding the whole site is stone circle in addition to a series of 97 stones (kerbstones) outlining Newgrange and a highly decorated entrance stone with triple spirals and other traditional motifs.  Interior stones contain these patterns along with zig-zags and triangles.

The entrance to Newgrange is on the South East site and is aligned with the Winter Solstice sunrise and just above it is a structure called the roof-box.  The rays of the sun pass through slits in the roof-box and hits the basin stone on the other side and lighting up the whole tomb.  If you check online, I have seen sites which give live broadcasts of the sunrise.

Images I have seen on some of the kerbstones seem quite vulvic. This correlates Newgrange's association with the Irish god of love, Oenghus.

Technically Newgrange is a passage tomb, due to the central passage leading from the entrance which leads to a room with 2 side alcoves.  The resulting shape of the plan is called cruciform.

In Newgrange, archaeologists found bones from 4 people which had evidence of cremation and 2 who were buried unburnt but it is presumed that there were originally more bodies there.  They also found hammer shaped pendants as well as chalk marbles. Interestingly enough, none of the grave goods related t
everyday uses.

In mythology, Newgrange is used as a palace or great dining hall of the gods and has been called the Bru na Boinne.  It is described as having 3 fruit trees which were always bearing fruit and a cauldron with a perpetual supply of food.

However, I believe the original use was really funerary and not just because of the bodies interred there.  It is aligned with the mid-winter sunrise, the day that reverses the shortening days. The alignment reinforces the cycle of birth/rebirth.

Dowth

The monument at Dowth is a circular passage tomb and its entrance faces Newgrange.

One of the 2 chambers inside Dowth is aligned with the setting sun on the Winter Solstice.  Interestingly, the passage and chamber at Dowth are smaller than Newgrange, but the light shaft at the Solstice is much larger. The other chamber is also aligned with sunsets, but on the 2 cross-quarter days around Samhain and Imbolc.

This site appears in ancient literature as Dubad (or darkness).

Knowth

Knowth
is a large, oval (but very round) passage tomb, with a cruciform layout.  Actually, there seems to be 2 passage tombs located within Knowth; one is eastern while the other is estern.  These passages are twice the size of Newgrange.  The site is surrounded by kerbstones, much like Newgrange.

Knowth is also surrounded by 17 small, round satellite passage tombs.  These smaller tombs' entrances mostly face the Knowth monument.

The kerbstone on the western entrance to Knowth has vertical lines inscribed, which parallels Newgrange.  It appears to be aligned with the Autumnal Equinox.  In the passage, where the light penetrates on the equinox, lied a stone basin and an engraved sillstone.  

There are several stones which seem to have lunar calendars and other time measurements.

Within Knowth, archaeologists have found numerous bone and antler pins.

This site appears in ancient literature as Cnogba.

 

 

 

   
 
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