Archaeological Heritage

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My fellow megalithomaniacs should check out this documentary from RTÉ Television. The first part looks at the evolution of megalithic tombs from “simple” dolmens (if manhandling a 12 ton rock could ever be called simple) through huge cairns, to passage tombs with elaborate carvings and solar alignments.

The second deals with the development of Christian churches and monasteries, from the beehive huts of Skellig Michael through to the high crosses of Durrow and Monasterboice.

Unusually for the rather staid world of RTÉ in particular and TV documentaries in general, the program-makers focused on the controversial theories, the exciting new research, and the minority reports. There are also some nice computer-generated artists’ impressions of what places like the Hill of Tara and Caherlehilla (site of what may be the oldest church in Ireland) might have looked like in their heyday, as well as bold denunciations of St. Patrick as base propaganda, and tantalizing hints that several of the high crosses may have been carved by a single artist, a Michelangelo of the midlands. 

Fascinating stuff!

“Zombie Skeleton” Photo credit: Chris Read

Lough Key Forest Park in County Roscommon, in Ireland’s North West is a popular place to picnic, a good place to camp and a fixture of boating on the river Shannon. When we were kids our scout troop spent a week camping in the area. However, if I’d known the was a huge ancient graveyard containing at least a few “zombies” overlooking the lake, I might have thought twice about spending the night there.

Two skeletons have been unearthed with large rocks wedged into their mouths (see pic above). The spirit was thought to exit through the mouth, and presumably wedging it closed would have trapped the spirit in the body and prevented it returning to haunt the relatives. So, whether the belief was that the body would become reanimated or just that the spirit would haunt the living is a subject for discussion. But, if this picture doesn’t fascinate and creep you out in equal measure, I’ll be surprised.

Link: Did Zombies Roam Medieval Ireland? : Discovery News. (The most-thorough story about the find that I’ve read so far.)

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