Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New Independent Report Contradicts NRA Advice on Lismullin National Monument

An international archaeological expert has issued an independent report which contradicts many NRA findings and recommendations regarding the newly discovered national monument in Lismullin, and calls for full preservation of the "unique" national monument.

The report, entitled 'On the Significance of Lismullin', by Dr Ronald Hicks, will be submitted to Minister for the Environment, John Gormley;the NRA; Meath County Council; and An Bord Pleanala, who are currently considering whether the demolition of the site will be in breach of planning permission.

The report is also being sent to the European Commission, who are currently examining whether the legal basis of the order to demolishthe site is in breach of EU law, as well as the World Monuments Fund, who are monitoring the situation now that Tara is on their 100 Most Endangered Sites List for 2008.

TaraWatch is calling on the Minister to examine the independent report and halt any demolition works until An Bord Pleanala have reached a decision, which is due shortly.

Dr Ronald Hicks, Chairman of the Anthropology Department at Ball State University, Indiana, endorsed the TaraWatch nomination of the Hill of Tara to the World Monuments Fund List. He recently inspected the Lismullin henge and has issued a report which states:

1. Rather than being a delicate wooden 'henge', which is extremely delicate, the site sits in a natural hollow to form an ancient amphitheater. That structure is very much intact, and could and should be preserved in situ.

2. The site is comparable to ceremonial enclosures found on the hilltop at Tara and other royal sites in Ireland, but is twice as large as any other.

3. The site is part of a larger complex of monuments associated with Tara, forming a single national monument, with many component parts, all of which are national monuments. The NRA have consistently denied that the site is part of a larger national monument.

FULL REPORT - On the Significance of Lismullin, Dr Ron Hickshttp://tarawatch.org/?p=470

Profile of Dr Ron Hicks http://www.bsu.edu/web/rhicks/research.htm

NRA Report on Lismullin by Mary Deevyhttp://www.meath.ie/LocalAuthorities/Publications/Herit...n.pdf

World Monuments Fund (WMF) http://www.wmf.org

WMF 100 Most Endangered Sites List 2008


Related Link: http://www.tarawatch.org

On the Significance of Lismullin

by Dr. Ronald Hicks, Department of Anthropology, Ball State University, Indiana

August 2007

The monument discovered earlier this year at Lismullin is, quite simply, unique. For that reason, if for no other, it should be preserved.

In order to assess the significance of the Lismullin site, it is necessary to consider it from several points of view. The first of these is in terms of its relationship to the Hill of Tara. The monument's discovery underscores what archaeologists and historians have been saying for several years and therefore should have come as no surprise. The Tara ceremonial/ritual complex is not confined to the Hill of Tara but extends to several square kilometers of the surrounding landscape. This is perfectly typical of the places referred to in early Irish manuscripts as royal sites--Emain Macha, Cruachan, Dún Ailinne, and Tara. Each includes a hilltop surrounded by a much wider area--as much as 24 square kilometers--within which one finds a variety of monuments of a ceremonial or ritual nature. There are good reasons for assuming that the Tara ceremonial complex is roughly bounded by the Riverstown enclosure and a linear earthwork on the west, the Clonardran tumulus on the north, Rath Lugh and the Hill of Skreen on the east, and Rath Maeve on the south. It seems obvious that if some portions of such complexes qualify as National Monuments, then the complex as a whole should qualify since all components are integral parts.

As has been noted in the NRA's initial report on the site at Lismullin (Deevy 2007), large timber structures have been identified at Dún Ailinne and Emain Macha as well. In the other cases, however, they have been found only on the hilltop itself and within the large earthen enclosures that are also typical of these sites. The monument at Lismullin is the only example so far known that is not in such a setting. It also differs in other ways. The most obvious is it's size, roughly 80 m. in diameter, nearly double the size of the largest timber enclosure at the other sites.

Various investigators have suggested that the earthen enclosures at ritual sites may have served two purposes. One was to demarcate a sacred area. This carried over into early Christian times, when similar enclosures were to be found surrounding monastic sites. The second purpose was to serve as a seating or standing areas for spectators at rituals. At Dún Ailinne, however, that seems unlikely, since the embankment lies on the slopes of the hill, distinctly limiting the view. But that site provides us with an alternative possibility. In excavations carried out between 1968 and 1975, the excavator, Bernard Wailes, found that at the top of the hill, near the center of the earthen enclosure, a series of massive circular structures had been build in the early centuries of the Iron Age, each larger that its predecessor and the final version some 43 m in diameter. He felt that the pattern of posts within these was such that they could not have supported a roof. Instead, he suggested that they had served as the base for tiered seating (Wailes 2007: 14, 17).

This has direct relevance to the site at Lismullin. There is no trace of a surrounding bank and ditch delimiting the sacred area. Rather, the double line of stakeholes seems to have served that purpose. And while it is not inconceivable that they could also have supported seating, the site has another feature that appears much more likely to have served that purpose. As stated in Mary Deevy's report, "The enclosure is situated at the centre of a natural geomorphological hollow surrounded by a ridge of higher ground which overlooks all sides of the monument, which in turn is surrounded by lower ground" (2007:2). In other words, the surrounding higher ground forms a natural amphitheater. Given the span between the double line of stakeholes and the inner circle and the lack of any pattern among the stakeholes between the two that suggests intermediate supports, it seems very unlikely that the outer circles supported the outer edge of a roof. Although there is no evidence for the height of the wall represented by the double line, it seems entirely possible, and even likely, that it was low enough to allow spectators on the surrounding ridge to view the ceremonies being conducted inside. Although such a natural amphitheater is not present at the other major royal sites, an example does exist at the inauguration site of Magh Adair in County Clare.

Thus we see at Lismullin a site that is part of a larger ritual complex that shares its National Monument status and that is, moreover, unique in several important characteristics—the size of the enclosure, its lack of a surrounding earthen bank and ditch, and its siting within a natural amphitheater not found at the other major royal sites. All of these would seem to qualify it for preservation in situ.

It is unfortunate that we know nothing of the type of ceremonies that took place in the Lismullin enclosure. We can only note that the entrance faces due east, the direction of sunrise at the equinoxes. Although the equinoxes and solstices were clearly of interest in ancient Ireland, as shown not only by the orientation of Newgrange but also of alignments found at later monuments, in early historic times more emphasis seems to have been placed on the cross-quarter dates lying midway between, near the beginnings of February, May, August, and November, which marked important transition points in the agricultural calendar. Any ceremonies are likely to have occurred at these times. Not only excavation, but also carefully noting the exact spatial relationship of Lismullin to the other monuments in the vicinity may provide further clues to its possible ritual role, as there is good reason to think that such sacred landscapes were carefully planned. This is yet another reason to preserve it in situ.

References Cited

Deevy, Mary

2007 Information on Investigations at Lismullin, Co. Meath. www.meath.ie/LocalAuthorities/Publications/HeritagePublications/File,7286,en.pdf.

Accessed 19 Aug 07.

Wailes, Bernard

2007 Excavation of the Summit Area. In Dún Ailinne: Excavations at an Irish Royal Site 1968-1975, edited by Susan A. Johnston & Bernard Wailes, pp. 9-25. Philadelphia: University Museum.

SEE ALSO: 'Archaeological Method and Theory and the M3' by Dr Ron Hicks

Fig 1 (Deevy) -Click images to enlarge


fig4.jpg 16.31.jpg hengegeo2.jpg

No comments: