Findings in Newgrange research prompt archaeologists' debate

 

The winter solstice, the most important day of the year at the Newgrange burial mound, coincided yesterday with a lively debate among archaeologists over the results of new research work at the site.

Mr Victor Buckley, an archaeologist with Duchas, described in The Irish Times yesterday how the results so far from a geophysical survey would "throw a whole new light on the Newgrange archaeological landscape".

Yesterday another archaeologist with Duchas, Mr Tom Condit, agreed that an "avenue of the dead" detected by the geophysical survey was a new addition to archaeologists' knowledge of the monuments surrounding the exterior of Newgrange passage tomb.

"However," he said, "at this stage we don't know the relationship in terms of time or function with the smaller passage tomb, Site Z, as previously excavated by Prof O'Kelly during the 1960s. Its relationship to the timber circle excavation by David Sweetman in 1982 and 1983 has also to be established."

Mr Condit said the research was image-based, "and as we haven't seen the complete image it is premature to attempt a detailed evaluation". Mr David Sweetman, chief archaeologist with Duchas, said that "based on similar sites elsewhere in Britain and Ireland it is more likely to be associated with the henge [timber circle] rather than the passage tomb".

Henges post-date Newgrange. "However, the association of the avenue with either the passage tomb or the henge will not be fully resolved until the site is excavated," Mr Sweetman said.

"Geophysical surveying is an indication of what can be found beneath the ground, but it is not a substitute for excavation."

Mr Buckley said his colleagues "haven't seen the material I am looking at". He agreed that the material was not yet conclusive. It was hoped the results would be ready for publication in March.

A lively debate between archaeologists was not a bad thing, he said.

Dull weather yesterday prevented the rising sun shining through the entrance to the main chamber of the burial mound.