An underwater archaeological reconnaissance of the bed of the River Boyne near the Brú na Bóinne complex in Co Meath has revealed features that may represent log boats or man-made quays, a research conference was told on Saturday.
The sonar study, carried out by Annalisa Christie of University College Dublin and Dr Kieran Westley of University of Ulster, surveyed 10km of the river from Oldbridge to a weir 1.8km east of Slane Bridge.
Christie told the conference, titled The Pleasant Boyne and organised by the UCD school of archaeology as part of its world heritage programme, that it was likely that for the first visitors to this landscape, the river provided the easiest way to travel, offering an accessible route through a largely wooded landscape. As such, it represented a major communications artery, not just for local visitors but also connecting communities in the area to those from farther afield, such as Wales or even Orkney.
Christie said 100 “anomalous features” were revealed in the study and these were assessed and classified according to how likely they were to have been created as a result of past human activity, and their likely archaeological interest.
“Features that were clearly man-made, and were likely historically or archaeologically important, were considered of high archaeological potential. In addition to a few possible log boats, two other features stand out as being of interest, one an alignment of six stones that clearly formed part or all of a weir, the other a strong linear feature that was clearly a subsurface continuation of a wall in the river bank which could possibly have been used as a quay,” she said.
An archaeology researcher at UCD, Allison Galbari, said that hundreds of pages of folklore connected with the River Boyne were housed at UCD and work was in progress on the digitisation of the entire collection.
Tom Condit, of the National Monuments Service, said that processions and processional routes were, even in modern times, part and parcel of religious festivals and events, and he described how cursus monuments, formally laid-out ritual routeways controlling direction and views of the surrounding visual landscape, indicated that such processions also took place in the late Neolithic period at Brú na Bóinne.
Clíodhna Ní Lionáin, project archaeologist at Dowth Hall, where a 5,500-year-old passage tomb was uncovered in 2018, said that two burial chambers have been discovered within the western part of the main passage tomb, over which a large stone cairn has been raised. One of the interesting finds there was the skull of a woman, aged 17-25, which contained bones of a child and animals, pointing to possible ritual ceremonies.
In a contribution titled Hidden in Plain Sight, the journalist and author Anthony Murphy suggested that the possibility of finding more monuments at Brú na Bóinne was still quite high, despite the array of discoveries that had already been made recently. Using popular maps applications from Google and Apple, he had found at least 15 unrecorded monuments in the Brú na Bóinne complex in the past few months. In July 2018 Murphy and a friend, Ken Williams, discovered a giant late-Neolithic henge close to Newgrange using drones.