The most recent season of surveying at Brú na Bóinne in County Meath, Ireland, has proven very successful, identifying 40 previously unrecorded structures (one is pictured below) and demonstrating just how prominent this landscape was throughout prehistory and into the medieval period.

Image from the survey of Brú na Bóinne
Survey image of Brú na Bóinne [Image: Stephen Davis]

Since 2014, Dr Steve Davis from the UCD School of Archaeology has been working with Dr Knut Rassmann and Professor Eszter Bánffy from the Romano-Germanic Commission (RGK) on conducting a full geophysical survey of the World Heritage Site. Brú na Bóinne includes the famous megalithic passage tombs of Knowth, Dowth, and Newgrange, but the team has concentrated its efforts on finding less-conspicuous monuments in the landscape. Covering over 3.5km2 this has been no easy task, particularly as the area is broken into many different field systems, all privately owned.

Last year, the area made international headlines when the unusually hot and dry summer revealed a patchwork of parchmarks (see CA 343). With more-typical Irish weather this year, though, the team relied on geomagnetic sensor rigs to cover more than 100 hectares of field in two weeks.

One of the most significant discoveries was a pair of Neolithic timber structures, adding to the three similar structures of this period previously found at the site through the surveying project. One of these latter structures is particularly unusual: larger than the other three at 50m across, it is aligned to the Knowth passage tomb. It is also slightly later in date (2800-2600 BC) and seems to be a type of transitional structure with a possible tomb-like chamber in the middle, made of timber instead of stone.

Other discoveries from the survey include a series of Bronze Age ring-ditches and barrows along the river, as well as significant evidence of high-status early medieval settlements along the steep scarps above the Boyne. One of the survey’s biggest mysteries, however, is the high concentration of pits, which seem to be very organised. While excavation isn’t currently possible, the team hopes that future coring and geochemical analysis of these pits will provide some insight into their origin and function.


This news article appears in issue 356 of Current Archaeology. To find out more about subscribing to the magazine, click here.

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