Wood you believe it? Stonehenge find at Tara
An artist's impression of how the mammoth wooden version of Britain's famous Stonehenge monument would have looked at the Hill of Tara in Co Meath
By Louise Hogan
Saturday April 11 2009
SCIENTISTS have unearthed what appears to be a mammoth wooden version of the famous Stonehenge monument at the Hill of Tara.
In a revealing new RTE documentary, many theories and insights into the country's prehistoric past and 150,000 ancient monuments are unveiled and explained.
For the first time, people will be able to view a computer-generated recreation of what archaeologists believe was a major wooden structure -- a version of Britain's Stonehenge -- at the ancient seat of the Irish high kings in the Hill of Tara in Co Meath.
Archaeologist Joe Fenwick revealed a LiDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging) laser beam had been used to scan the ground surface to create a three-dimensional map, which revealed more than 30 monuments around Tara.
Using another technique -- described as taking an X-ray through the hillside -- archaeologists discovered the huge monument, a ditch stretching six metres wide and three metres deep in the bedrock.
The ditch, circling the Mound of the Hostages passage tomb, separated the outside world from the ceremonial centre of Tara.
It was believed the ancient architects had also surrounded the ditch with a massive wooden structure on each side -- a version of Stonehenge -- on a large scale. Its sheer size meant a whole forest would have had to be cleared to build it.
"In scale, it is comparable, for example, to Croke Park's pitch. The Hill of Tara had enormous ritual significance over the course of 5,000-6,000 years, so it's not surprising that you get monuments of the scale of the ditch pit circle," said Mr Fenwick, from the Department of Archaeology, NUI Galway.
Cutting-edge technology is helping to provide a new insight into the lives of our ancestors, according to the documentary makers behind 'Secrets of the Stones'.
It shows Ireland's first civilisation began 7,000 years ago, they withstood major climatic changes and voyaged throughout Europe, returning with new religions and mementos.
An RTE spokesman said the broadcaster, along with the Department of Education, would be sending two free copies of the book accompanying the series to all second-level schools in the country.
The first part of the 'Secrets of the Stones' will be shown on RTE One at 6.30pm on Easter Monday.
- Louise Hogan