Researchers from the University College Dublin (UCD) School of Archaeology and the Romano-Germanic Commission in Frankfurt have announced the discovery of approximately 40 new monuments in a region of Ireland steeped in history. Located in Brú na Bóinne, close to the famous Newgrange site, the monuments were uncovered over the past few weeks in what has been described as an “exceptionally successful” discovery.

The survey area included both sides of the river Boyne across from the prehistoric tombs found in not only Newgrange but also in Knowth and Dowth. According to RTÉ News, UCD’s Dr Steve Davis was able to age the monuments, saying they are likely “early Neolithic houses to Neolithic timber enclosures, as well as Bronze Age burial monuments and some early medieval farmsteads”.

The discovery was made as part of the ‘Boyne to Brodgar’ project, which aims to determine what links might exist between these Neolithic sites and those found on the Orkney Islands nearly 1,000km away.

Window into a time long past
The researchers were able to use some of the latest archaeological technology provided by the Romano-Germanic Commission such as special radar satellite which, according to Dr Knut Rassmann, gave the team “windows in the Boyne Valley”.

“We have hundreds of photos and radar images, which allow us to have an unprecedented overview of the landscape,” he added.

The team also used a large-scale geophysical imaging machine – originally designed to detect unexploded bombs beneath the ground – to search up to 25 hectares a day for any buried remains at the sites. Davis also said that the other “21st century archaeological technologies” included drones, satellite-based remote sensing and airborne laser scanning.

The researchers are now working to see whether the success they’ve had on the northern side of the Boyne can be seen on the southern side as well.

Davis said: “There are still significant gaps, most notably in our understanding of settlement, but we are continuing to work to understand these.”

He added that this year’s results will “build on the exceptional summer last year in Brú na Bóinne and continue to demonstrate what a globally significant archaeological landscape we have in Brú na Bóinne”.

Since July of last year, a number of new discoveries in the region have turned it into a hotbed of archaeological activity, with digital models showing the ghostly shadows of buried structures across the Boyne landscape.

Colm Gorey

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