Friday, 21 October 2016

'Newgrange - Monument to Immortality' is out of print, but the good news is it's being reprinted for November

Newgrange Monument to Immortality.
Some very significant news (and opportunities hopefully) on the publications front. My book Newgrange: Monument to Immortality has sold out. This is very positive news and shows how popular this work has been as an alternative avenue into exploring Ireland's most precious ancient treasure. The even better news is that I've just spoken to The Liffey Press and they're going to do a second print run, which should hopefully be available some time in November.

This is the second time one of my books went out of print. Island of the Setting Sun (with co-author Richard Moore) sold out in just 12 months after its initial publication in 2006, and was revised and expanded and republished in early 2008. HOWEVER, Island of the Setting Sun also recently sold out (again), and in this case it is not being republished by The Liffey Press. So I will be seeking an alternative publisher as I believe this book will continue to sell for years to come.

On the fiction front, my novella Land of the Ever-Living Ones is almost out of print and although it is available for Amazon Kindle, I would like to have it reprinted in hard copy format. This simple story of a lovely dialogue between a young boy and a wise sean-draoi (old druid) set in ancient Ireland has proven very popular and has received some very positive reviews. Here's one from
Having read Anthony's excellent non-fiction titles, I was enthusiastic about his foray into fiction. What a treasure! I smiled, laughed, thoughtfully let tears run down my cheeks and didn't want it to end! Sometimes I felt myself telling the story of the seandroi, others I was the young, rapt listener and throughout felt that this is how history is supposed to be conveyed. My wife and I rarely like to read the same genre but I had to share this with her and she loved it too! Anthony, please publish in hardcover so this wonderful gift can be passed on and on!
Anthony Murphy's books - non-fiction (left) and fiction (right).

Further to all this, my first full novel, The Cry of the Sebac, has not yet been published in hard copy format, although it is available on Amazon Kindle. I would LOVE to see this book in print and believe it has a very strong message for today's world from the myths and megaliths of ancient Ireland. Here's a brief summary of The Cry of the Sebac:
One boy can be more powerful than an army.
A boy meets a mysterious talking bird, a floating hawk who claims to have lived forever. Guided by the bird, he glimpses his own destiny. He alone must save mankind from rushing over the precipice to his doom. The boy will have to prevent an apocalypse. But how? The bird, who calls himself the Sebac Gaoth (Hawk on the Wind), takes him on an extraordinary journey through mind and space to meet the Tuatha Dé Danann, those who are foretold to come to the aid of man for a battle to save the world. In the process of revelation, the boy helps the Sebac to realise something of his own origins and destiny.

On top of all of the above, I am continuing research into another work of non-fiction, which will be based on some of the most ancient myths of Ireland, offering new insights and tracing the creation and origin myths of this ancient island. I'm hoping to make progress on this book during the coming winter, all going well.

Click on the video below so see footage from the launch of Land of the Ever-Living Ones in 2013:

Newgrange: Monument to Immortality - Amazon reviews
Land of the Ever-Living Ones: Amazon reviews
Island of the Setting Sun: Amazon reviews

Thursday, 20 October 2016

The remarkable geological secret behind the location where the large stones of Newgrange were sourced

The giant kerb stones of Newgrange, and many of those at Knowth, weighing up to five tonnes apiece and more, were sourced along the coastline at Clogherhead, and brought by sea and river to the Bend of the Boyne, where the great megalithic monuments at Brú na Bóinne were built more than 5,000 years ago.

What is not widely known is that Clogherhead holds a fascinating geological secret, one that is extremely unlikely to have been known by the ancient megalithic builders of the Boyne Valley. At this promontory of land that projects out into the Irish Sea from the coast of what is now County Louth, there are rock formations which are vertical. The stones jut up out of the land in jagged layers. It was here that, over five millennia ago, the builders of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth sourced many of the large stones that were used for kerbing, and for orthostats and structural stones.

A map showing the approximate seam or fault line (border) that once separated the two continents.
What the builders did not know was that these jagged rock formations are the result of a significant seismic event 400 million years ago, in which two continents smashed together. It's hard to imagine today, but there is a "border" of sorts running from Clogherhead down to the Shannon Estuary. Everything north of this "border" was once on a continent that has been given the name Laurentia, while everything south of there was on a continent called Avalonia. The types of fossils found either side of this so-called border, which is now called the Iapetus Suture, are very different.

It's hard to believe that Laurentia and Avalonia, and by extention the northern and southern parts of Ireland, were once separated by 3,000 kilometres of ocean! This ocean has (in modern times of course) been given the name the Iapetus Ocean - hence the Iapetus Suture.

The website Ingenious Ireland says the following about the collision of these continents and the different types of fossil found north and south of Ireland's ancient border:
A spiral-shaped fossil at Clogherhead.
The half of Ireland that lies north of the seam was originally joined with Scotland, Greenland and North America in the ancient continent of Laurentia. The south-eastern half of Ireland, along with Wales, England and Brittany, formed the smaller continent of Avalonia. Some 500 million years ago Laurentia lay at the Equator, Avalonia lay further south, and between them was the Iapetus Ocean (Iapetus was the father of Atlantis, after whom the Atlantic Ocean is named).
Fossils from this time found in the northern Laurentian, or ‘American’, half of Ireland are very different from those found in the Avalonian, or ‘European’, half. This reflects the fact that they came from distant parts of the world once separated by 3,000 kilometres of ocean.

An inlet at Clogherhead where it's possible Neolithic mound builders tied large greywacke slabs on to barges.

The builders of Newgrange used the vertical formations of layered greywacke at Clogherhead to their advantage. They were, it seems, able to prise specimens out using something like wooden poles and, we are told by archaeologists, strap them to the underside of a barge. At high tide, the sea would lift the raft, with stone underneath, and the "pilot" of this barge would steer it down the coast and up the River Boyne.

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

The bear bone that has pushed back the date of human presence in Ireland by 2,500 years to 10500BC

A fascinating discovery in the darkness of a cave in County Clare has forced archaeologists to rewrite the history of Ireland. A bear bone found in the cave pushes back the date of human presence in Ireland by 2,500 years - to 12,500 years ago.

The cave near Ennis in Co. Clare in which the Paleolithic bear bone was found in 1903.

"This is a hugely significant and exciting discovery," says Dr. Marion Dowd, an archaeologist at IT Sligo, who was co-discoverer with Dr. Ruth Carden of the National Museum of Ireland. "We've effectively pushed back the date of human occupation of the island of Ireland by two and a half thousand years. Until now, we knew that people had been here about 10,000 years ago, but now we've pushed that back into an earlier period - into the Paleolithic."

Dr. Marion Dowd of IT Sligo.
"This journey began in 1903 when a team of scientists, the foremost scientists in Ireland at the time, excavated a small cave, known as Alice and Gwendoline Cave, outside Ennis in County Clare. During those excavations, they recovered archaeological material, and thousands of animal bones."

"The bone that forms the centre of our project was one of those bones, and they commented on this bone in their excavation report. They remarked on the fact that it had these cut marks."

The bone is a patella, or knee bone, and belonged to an adult bear. Dr. Dowd says that the cut marks on the bone indicate someone trying to butcher the bear carcass.

"We're looking at a scenario where you have a bear and it's being butchered. They're cutting through the knee area, probably to pull out the tendons."She said that the "butcher" was likely to have been inexperienced because there were seven or eight cut marks on the bone and they were seemingly having difficulty cutting through the area.

The Paleolithic bear bone with linear cut marks.
A sample was taken from the bone and sent to Queen's University Belfast for carbon dating. The sample returned a date of 12,500 years ago. This puts it in the Paleolithic, or Old Stone Age.

"This was very exciting," said Dr. Dowd, adding that it was "completely unexpected". For the purpose of confirmation, a second sample was extracted from the bear bone and sent to Oxford University, whose radiocarbon dating laboratory "sent back exactly the same result".

Now that they knew the age of the bone, they wanted to confirm that the cut marks on the bone were contemporaneous with the bone itself, and not something that was added years, or perhaps centuries, later. Three specialists independently examined the cut marks. All three experts agreed that the marks were made with a "sharp implement" and that they had been made "on fresh bone". The bear bone was butchered soon after death.

The discovery changes the history books, and pushes back the earliest date of known occupation of Ireland to 10500BC. There have been problems with identifying remains from the Paleolithic era - primarily due to the action of glaciers during the Ice Age, which had the effect of scouring a lot of evidence away. The melt waters at the end of the Ice Age would also have washed a lot of material away.
Thousands of animal bones were found in Alice and Gwendoline Cave in County Clare in 1903.

Dr. Dowd said scientists and archaeologists had been looking for evidence of Paleolithic human activity since the 1860s.

Excitingly, there may be the prospect of a return to the cave, where some archaeological digging of the sediments there might reveal further tantalising clues to Ireland's very ancient past.

This one sample of bone rewrites the history of Ireland and adds 2,500 years to its human story.
Watch a YouTube video about this remarkable discovery:

Monday, 17 October 2016

"Voices of the Dawn - landscape, stars and stones" - a talk by Anthony Murphy to Mythic Links in Dublin

I will be giving a talk in Dublin on Thursday 27th October. I will be a guest of the Mythic Links group and will be showing lots of photographs (some of them not seen here on the blog) and indeed talking about the myths, monuments and astronomy.

The talk will feature photographs of the megalithic and sacred sites of the Boyne Region (and a couple of others) and the talk will focus on various aspects of the sites, including the mythology, symbolism, alignments, astronomy and archaeology of each. I will be showing pictures not yet seen on the blog or any of my social media sites. There will be lots of photos in particular from Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth, Fourknocks, Hill of Tara and Loughcrew.

Here are the details from Mythic Links:
SPEAKER: Anthony MURPHY – Author & Photographer - Creator of – New Light on the Ancient past- An illustrated talk
Anthony’s books include: ‘NEWGRANGE: Monument to Immortality’, “The Cry of the Sebac“; and “Island of the Setting Sun” by Anthony Murphy & Richard Moore.
VENUE: United Arts Club, 3 Upper FITZWILLIAM St., Dublin 2
TIME:Register 7.15 pm-Please arrive early-places limited [starts 7.30pm]
ADMISSION: €10 [ donation towards venue & overheads ]
PARKING Free from 7pm
Tea, Coffee & Bar available in the Club before & after the event.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

A marvellous vision of Tír na nÓg at Sliabh na Caillighe

When you climb Sliabh na Caillighe (the hill known today as Carnbane East, Loughcrew), it's difficult not to think of what motives and forces inspired a community of people in the far distant past to create great monuments of stone on the peaks of these hills.

Sunset over Carrickbrack and Carnbane West viewed from Sliabh na Caillighe, Loughcrew.

How did they do it? Why did they do it? How did they stay warm up here, on autumnal days like today, when the wind is blowing and bringing water to the eyes? How many people laboured here, in honour of what gods, and at what cost to their physical and spiritual beings? You wonder about what could have driven them to such fabulous exploits, to create these permanent memorials of stone in honour of ideals and aims that we can only feign to understand.

Ambient light streams into the chamber of Cairn T.
But, in the fading light of day, you catch sight of a marvellous vision. The clouds and the sun create a powerful drama, a play on the stage of the western horizon, causing sudden and thrilling changes in colour and light that bring a sense of rapture. You are witness to another dazzling moment in nature's constant dance.

The haze causes the landscape to fade into ever-dissipating layers of mistiness, and the scattered beams of the sun create the impression of a golden opening to something wondrous beyond the cairn-topped hills. Perhaps this is as close as you can get to actually seeing Tír na nÓg. The eye beholds; the mind tinkers with possibilities; and the heart is greatly warmed by the glory of the scene.

And here, at this sanctified spot where the ancestors gathered in the ancient yesterday, you feel like you have made a connection with them, across time and space and landscape. You grasp with the notion of an otherworld in the here and now, one that transcends time and place, so that you can call out to them and they will answer.

And you wish and hope that the landscape will stay like this forever. Forever ancient.

The evening sun over Cairn T (the Hag's Cairn) at Loughcrew.

Monday, 10 October 2016

The Milky Way in Irish mythology and folklore

The Milky Way has been known by several names and phrases in Irish mythology and folklore. Principal among its names seems to have been Bealach na Bó Finne, which means the Way of the White Cow. In this respect, it seems to have been regarded as a heavenly reflection of the River Boyne. A variant of this is Bóthar na Bó Finne, the Road of the White Cow. The goddess Bóinn's name is from and Find, meaning White Cow. In the Dindshenchas, we are told that the Boyne river was formed when she approached Nechtain's Well and it overflowed, washing her along the river, mutilating her, and finally carrying her out to sea where she was drowned. There, we are told, her lapdog Dabilla was turned into the Rockabill Islands. This is undoubtedly a creation myth.

The Milky Way (Bealach na Bó Finne) over the River Boyne (Abhainn Bó Finne).
There are other names and phrases for the Milky Way. These include:

Ceann Síne - Síne is "chain", and ceann is "head" or "chief", perhaps even an "end point". (An end point would be interesting with regards to the movement of the sun, moon and planets along the ecliptic, which intersects the Milky Way at two points in the sky. Perhaps one of these points was considered the place where the heavenly cycles began and ended?)

Síog na Spéire - the streak or stripe of the sky.

Earball na Lárach Báine - the tail of the white mare. In folklore, Láir Bhán is also a phrase for the moon. The Láir Bhán is considered by some to be an ancient sovereignty goddess. One old Samhain custom in Ireland involved the procession of the Láir Bhán (White Mare) from house to house. People would blow on cows' horns and the party was headed by a person dressed in a white robe or sheet who was known as the "White Mare".(1)

Mór-Chuing Argait - A name given for the Boyne in the Dinshenchas meaning "Great Silver Yoke", which might also have been a description of the Milky Way.

Smir Find Fedlimthi - the White Marrow of Fedlimid, also from the Dindshenchas poem Boand I.

Claí Mór na Réaltaí - the Great Fence/Ditch of the Stars.

Sgríob Chlann Uisnich - Track of the children of Uisneach.

This last one is contained in a beautiful folk memory, recalled in Scotland and in Nova Scotia but relating to an Irish myth (Deidre and the Sons of Uisneach) which appears to be the recounting of an ancient creation myth about the Milky Way. In this story, the Milky Way is known as Sgríob Chlann Uisnich. 

From Deirdre and the Lay of the Children of Uisne.(2)
It is not surprising to see the Milky Way described in conjunction with the swan. The constellation we know today as Cygnus may have been important to Stone Age astronomers and it appears to fly along the heavenly river.

In the Nova Scotia version of Deirdre and the Sons of Uisneach, the origin of the Milky Way galaxy is depicted as emerging from two trees as separated by a loch, as if to complete an arch between them.This episode is placed in the well-known Ulster tale if Deirdre, whose lover, Noíse, is one of the Children of Uisneach.
... the sons of Uisneach are killed in a great, unnamed battle, after which Deidire falls into the grave with the men. The bodies of the two lovers are exhumed and reburied on either side of the burial mound. Soon a tree grows from each grave and rises until the two join. This arouses a great deal of vengeful malice in an unnamed king, who orders that the trees be cut down. Soon another pair of trees grows and joins until the king has them cut down as well. This sequence of events recurs repeatedly until the king decides to have the bodies placed on either side of a loch, a distance too great for the trees to span. Between the trees a cluster of stars gathers in a light trail, Sgríob Chlann Uisnich [track of the Children of Uisneach].(3)

Sgríób Chlann Uisnich - the track of the Children of Uisneach - over the Dowth megalithc mound.

(1) Paice MacLeod, Sharon (1960), Celtic Myth & Religion, p.175.
(2) Carmichael, Alexander (1914), Deirdre and the Lay of the Children of Uisne, Hodges, Figgis & Co., p.152.
(3) MacKillop, James (2006), Myths and Legends of the Celts, Penguin Books, p.292.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Welcome to Fourknocks! - a quick tour of ancient megalithic monument in photographs and video

A wide-angle view of Fourknocks from the northeast. It was excavated and restored in the 1950s.
Fourknocks is a small megalithic passage-tomb on a ridge in southeastern County Meath, about 9 miles (14.7km) miles from Newgrange. The passage of Newgrange actually points towards Fourknocks, although neither site can be seen from the other due to intervening hills. There were two mounds excavated at Fourknocks by archaeologist P.J. Hartnett in the 1950s - this one, labelled Fourknocks I, and a nearby mound known as Fourknocks II. The latter was found to contain a cremation trench, where it is thought the remains of the deceased were cremated before being placed in Fourknocks I. This is a small selection of photos and a video from Fourknocks I, showing several of its features.

The short passage leading into a large, egg-shaped chamber with three recesses.
The entrance lintel stone has been placed on its side in the chamber for protection.
The western or right-hand recess. It is the largest recess and has a small plinth stone within.
A view towards the entrance, showing the lintel (left) and the "guardian" stone (right) illuminated.
Zig-zag carvings on a lintel above the interior of the passage. Their meaning is not known.
Concentric circles on another stone near the passageway. The stone is known only as Stone B.
Honouring the ancestors at Fourknocks.
A faded spiral on Stone B.
Lozenges and zig-zags on the lintel of the southern (end) recess.
Don't forget to watch this short video from inside Fouknocks. It gives a brief idea of the size of the monument and some of the features inside.