Passage Graves/Megalithic Mounds/Chambered Cairns
Passage Grave, Passage Tomb or Chambered Cairn, whichever name you wish to ascribe to these artistic burial mounds they are awe-inspiring and captivating. What a sight to behold? Huge earth and rock mounds with rock art of constellations and solar harnessing phenomenon. For me it’s not just the dominating perspective one sees as they sit on the landscape begging answers. I see these structures as the pinnacle of an almost forgotten and mysterious civilization of master architects and astronomers. The achievements of these are still being revealed to us today. Primarily I shall be dealing with the Boyne Valley Cemetery complex home to Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. They are all in close proximity to each other but despite this only Newgrange is famous the world over. I shall also endeavor to explain the cosmology at the similar Loughcrew and Carrowkeel cemeteries. These places harboring such burial mounds are more often referred to as passage graves though they are equally astronomical observatories. The sites outlined also include satellite mounds of decreasing size. The complexes are often referred to as megalithic cemeteries though I feel this often misrepresents their true function. They are as much an astronomical complex as they are burial sites. I might even go as far as to say that they are laid out in their primary context as an astronomical observatory and their secondary function are for the burial of the dead. Perhaps it was a burial for the astronomers who observed there and their family?
Strictly speaking the remains of the dead that were found in these sites were burnt outside and then left in ceremony bowls in the internal passages and not a true burial in this sense. I don’t wish to totally segregate the funerary function either; it is inherently important in the theme of passage graves throughout Ireland. The Boyne Valley complex may well be the best preserved megalithic cemetery but Passage graves all over Western Europe are shedding light on the megalithic activity of the ancients. The Western Atlantic seaboard is rife with such examples of these sites whereby there seems to be a bit of something similar in each location. The architects that imbued their skills in the Boyne Valley were surely mariners also. It is often remarked that the megalithic builders chose their prime real estate close to inland waterways and coastlines. The reasoning is, they had means of transport for the megaliths and also a rich source of food. However a common thread of knowledge runs through each site that has yet to be explained. Rudimentary contact between each site does not satisfy the similar knowledge occurring. From North Scotland to Southern Portugal similarities seem closer than nearby Irish passage graves. It is more likely that they were skilled seafarers and mythological tales of them coming from the Western Seas, i.e. the Atlantic, may have serious foundations.
When I set out to research these monuments it was for personal intrigue and a conquest to compile the scattered data. The passionate historian and problem solver was inherent in me but I had never once thought I would be writing this book. I had built a career compiling scattered data and applying analytical skills to figure things out, it seemed natural to apply it to my historical interests. The megaliths had already been researched by many varieties of people from so many different angles. The market seemed saturated in terms of research. I have been to Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth in the Boyne Valley on numerous occasions and stood and awed at the achievements of the architects with many different people, tourists and friends. To be in close proximity to the Boyne Valley complex it is only natural to show visitors to this beautiful island our world heritage site whilst it lies in your own back yard. However, I found myself there recently with a very different skill set than previous ventures. In my ten year absence I had traveled the British Isles and much of Europe (18 countries) in my vocation and otherwise, but I had always sought megalithic sites to awe and wonder. Having spent considerable amounts of time in the remotest parts of North West Scotland, Cumbria, the Lake District and Cornwall, Southwest Britain, there I had fueled my passion of ancient civilization and the mystery of the megaliths.