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- Lismullin


the Henge      

described as one of the top ten discoveries of 2007 by the Archaeological Institute of America

Lismullin Henge, Tara, Ireland Volume 61 Number 1, January/February 2008
by Jarrett A. Lobell

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 surrounding valley.

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 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 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


Village Magazine, January 2008

The M3 heritage trail
By - Joe Fenwick.

The M3 motorway continues to reveal new archaeological wonders as its broad corridor progresses relentlessly through Tara's Gabhra Valley.

Souterrain complex at Lismullin

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 Bulldozers Bucket.
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 systematically dismantled.

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 stone.

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.



Mythical Ireland - view topic


the story of Fionn and his two hounds


about the skeleton of the hound - from the Save Tara list




on Indymedia - more pictures and comments