The above video is a time lapse sequence showing the Stone of the Seven Suns (kerb stone 51) as it is lit up dramatically after sunrise in early December, with just two weeks to go to the Winter Solstice. The video features almost half an hour of footage compressed into one minute and 30 seconds. The symbols on the stone are thought to represent the sun, or perhaps even the sun during a solar eclipse, with ties in with the mythology about Dowth which suggests that its construction was abandoned when a sudden darkness fell over the land.
The time lapse footage reveals something fascinating. At first, the solar symbols are lit up quite dramatically, so that they are shown in excellent relief. Then, as the sun rises moves towards the south, a shadow from another kerb stone falls over the sun symbols - eclipsing the symbols one by one. If you can, make sure to watch the YouTube video at 1080 HD and full screen.
|Kerb 49 (arrowed) is the one that casts|
the shadow on kerb 51. Also shown here
is kerb 50, with its vertical line.
However, this interaction of light and symbols reminds me somewhat of the illumination of symbols that are not dissimilar to Dowth's seven suns on the back stone of Cairn T at Loughcrew. These symbols are lit up by sunrise on the spring and autumn equinoxes.
The interplay of light and shadow is also suggested at Newgrange, where shadows from the Great Circle stones appear to point towards, or "touch", kerb stones at the front of Newgrange at certain important times of the year, as described by Frank Prendergast.
Although I've been to Dowth several mornings lately to watch how beautifully the sun symbols are illuminated, I hadn't realised the extent of the phenomenon, or the slow progression of the shadow, until I saw the time lapse video. The video was made by taking a photography every two seconds. Because it compresses time, it shows the effect much more vividly.
|The sun symbols lit up by the low winter sun. The shadow has not yet eclipsed these emblems.|
The shadow crosses the stone diagonally, and interestingly the last sun to remain illuminated is the one which is currently at ground level. I presume the original Neolithic ground level is several inches below the current ground level and that the lower part of this symbol is hidden from view.
|The shadow from K49 is almost half-way across K51, the Seven Suns stone.|
There is undoubtedly more to be learned about Dowth. It continues to provide surprises. Even though its mythology suggests a summer solstice influence, we can see the midwinter sunrise also has a dramatic "wakening" effect upon the few eastern kerb stones that are revealed. This is by far the best time of the year to view the Stone of the Seven Suns. At most other times, the megalithic art appears to be very flat and is sometimes difficult to see.
We shouldn't forget either that Dowth's southern passage and chamber are aligned so that the light of the setting sun on winter solstice shines inside, as shown in these beautiful photos by Anne Marie Moroney.