Thursday, June 24, 2010

Neolithic to Medieval

Today was another busy field trip day! We visited 5 sites and I’m happy to say I think I’ve gotten to visit most of the big ones on my list! Still no good shopping for the family (sorry guys, most of the places have the usual tourist stuff and nothing that catches my eye as special for you!). We started the day off at Newgrange. This is I believe, one of the oldest passage tombs at just over 5,000 years old! That’s older than the pyramids! This passage tomb was excavated in the 1960s and 1970s under Professor M.J. O’Kelly. The tomb was reconstructed controversially to M.J. O’Kelly’s interpretation of what the original tomb looked like. Today, the white quartz wall that surrounds the tomb is a stark contrast to the green that surrounds the vistas. This could have been what the ancients were looking for, but could also be totally wrong! J  Either way, it makes for a unique passage tomb. This tomb we are allowed to go into and they have a representation of what happens on the winter solstice when the sun comes in through the roof box perfectly aligned toward the east and level with the tomb. My favorite part is the roof of the tomb that is made up of several large stones that make up a corbelled vault. It just amazes me the feats that the ancients were able to accomplish with such limited technology and to have them endure for five millennia!

After Newgrange, it was off to another passage tomb at Knowth. Knowth has several satellite passage tombs that directly surround it (it kinda reminds me of the smurf village but in large size J). The main passage tomb at Knowth actually has two passages, one facing east and one facing west. They are the longest passage tombs known. You can go inside the mound where there is a lighted poster of the passages but you cannot go down these passages. This site is really interesting (also 5,000 years old) there were several times this site was occupied. After the mound fell into disrepair, other peoples came and lived on top of the mound as it was a great vantage point. They also built sutterain’s (subterranean) tunnels to escape attacks from the Vikings when they inhabited Ireland around the 9th century.  This site also has the most geomorphic designs on the kerb stones surrounding the mound.

Having completed our Neolithic tours for the day it was time to move on to the medieval period. For lunch we headed to the ruins of Slane Abbey. These are the remains of a Franciscan Abbey built in the early 16th century and college. Got some beautiful pictures!

On we went to the remains of another abbey Monasterboice Abbey founded around the 6th century. The remains of the buildings probably date to the 14th century. But the coolest thing at this site are the remains of two Irish High Crosses that date to the 11th century (so they’re 1,000 years old!). These are believed to have been used to tell the stories of the bible as the panels show scenes from Bible stories.

Our last stop for the day was to Mellifont Abbey ruins, a Cistercian Abbey that was founded in 1142. All that remains of this enormous abbey are the lower parts of the walls and the floor grave markers where Bishops and such were buried within the grounds. One building still stands as it was continually used in later centuries and even has some original floor tiles.

All of the sites were so beautiful and tell the story of a long and varied history on this Island. The Boyne Valley is so rich in it’s history with Trim Castle, Newgrange, the many Abbey’s and our site of the Black Friary. It will be exciting when I can bring you all here to see all of these magnificent sites! Well, I have one last day in the field and I am looking forward to it and then I will be on a plane home early Saturday!

I hope everyone has a great Friday! Love you all!

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