described as one of the top ten discoveries of 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America
Lismullin Henge • Gabhra Valley, Ireland
Early last year, archaeologists working on the route of a
controversial highway near the village of Lismullin, Ireland, stumbled
across a vast Iron Age ceremonial enclosure, or henge, surrounded by
two concentric walls. The 2,000-year-old site is just over a mile from
the Hill of Tara, traditional seat of the ancient Irish kings and site
of St. Patrick's conversion of the Irish to Christianity in the fifth
century A.D. The discovery of the massive henge, measuring more than
260 feet in diameter, confirms the long-held belief that the area
around the hill contains a rich complex of monuments.
(Courtesy Paula Geraghty/Save Tara Campaign)
The extraordinary amount of archaeological remains on the Hill of
Tara--burial mounds, religious enclosures, stone structures, and rock
art dating from the third millennium b.c. to the twelfth century
A.D.--makes it Ireland's most spiritually and archaeologically
significant site. Construction of the new M3 highway, meant to ease
traffic congestion around Dublin, threatens not only the Hill of Tara's
timeless quality, but also newly discovered archaeological sites in the
Lismullin, seen at right in an aerial shot taken during excavations,
and other sites that stand in the way of the new road are now approved
for destruction. Although archaeologists and concerned Irish
politicians are rallying support worldwide for the protection of the
Hill of Tara (see www.savetara.com
to learn more about the effort), the iconic site remains in great
peril. At press time, the European Commission had initiated legal
action against the Irish government over the M3, charging Ireland with
failing to protect its own heritage.
More Top Discoveries of 2007
- What would you have picked as the year's most important find?
The Megalithic Art - official report
Megalithic art discovery at Lismullin souterrain On Thursday 29th November, while lifting the capstone off the main chamber of the souterrain at Lismullin, archaeologists discovered decoration carved into the side of the stone. The art mainly consists of a double row of zigzags or chevrons, half a series of concentric circles and what appears to be a nest of arcs. The stone is a boulder that had been split in antiquity and so only a portion of the art survives on the stone.
The find was immediately reported to the National Monuments section of the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. Preliminary interpretation on site was that the stone was part of a megalith originally used as a kerbstone on a Neolithic passage tomb. The early medieval builders of the souterrain reused a large boulder from an earlier monument, probably a kerbstone from a Neolithic passage tomb. The boulder was split before incorporation into the souterrain and the decoration would not have been visible inside the souterrain.
In one of the attached photos you can see what our first glimpse of the capstone looked like - the art was hidden underneath a clay capping that would have been used to waterproof the chamber below.
Dr Muiris O'Sullivan (University College Dublin), who studied the megaliths at Knowth and recently published the excavations of the Mound of the Hostages, has confirmed that it is indeed megalithic art. Nearby examples of passage tombs with megalithic art include the Mound of the Hostages on the Hill of Tara and a tomb at Ardmulchan.
Dr Blaze O'Connor, (PhD prehistoric art) who reported on the Louth examples, has commented that the Lismullin megalith has strong formal parallels to the Tateetra art.
Professor George Eogan, who excavated Knowth, has concurred with the interpretation that the boulder is a reused passage tomb kerbstone. The 'quarrying' of former monuments for construction stone for the building of souterrains is not unusual, including decorated stones.
There is a photograph of such a stone in souterrain on the cover of NRA Archaeology Monograph No. 2, published 2005, which was found in a souterrain excavated at Newtownbalregan during the archaeological works on the M1 Dundalk Western Bypass (see Archaeological Publications www.nra.ie). Another example of megalithic art incorporated into a souterrain was found at Tateetra west of Dundalk, also on the M1 Dundalk Western Bypass.
ALL Lismullin official reports at http://www.m3motorway.ie/Archaeology/Section2/Lismullin1/
Village Magazine, January 2008
The M3 heritage
By - Joe Fenwick.
The M3 motorway continues to reveal new archaeological
wonders as its broad corridor progresses relentlessly
through Tara's Gabhra Valley.
In the townland of Lismullin alone, in an attempt to
steer a course to avoid a known Barrow, Souterrain,
monastic site and the strategically placed fortification
of Rath Lugh (recently subject to a Preservation Order),
the motorway route has inadvertently impacted on several
other previously unrecorded and equally significant
archaeological remains.These include a Ring-Barrow, a complex of Souterrains
and, of course, an Iron Age Temple.
The Temple was declared a National Monument earlier this
year, has since been "preserved by record" and awaits the
Attention has now shifted to the nearby Souterrains, a
subterranean complex of artificial passages and chambers
dating to the Early Historic period (2nd. half of the
1st. millennium AD), which are currently being
During the course of recent work, a capstone bearing
megalithic art has come to light.
Megalithic art, like that at Newgrange, dates to the
Neolithic Period (the fourth millennium BC) and so this
stone is clearly not in it's original context.
It must therefore have been acquired from a conveniently
close at hand Passage Tomb.
Though this example, consisting of concentric circles,
nested arcs and zig zags, bears similarity in style to
the decorated stone in the Mound of the Hostages (on the
summit of the Hill of Tara), it is unlikely to have come
from this particular Monument.
Perhaps one of the (as yet) unclassified Mounds to be
found in the Gabhra Valley is the original source of this
Sadly, but as forewarned, the course of the M3 motorway
through the heart of Tara's royal demesne has struck an
exceptionally rich archaeological seam.
© Village Magazine, January 2008.