Stone Age, Bronze Age and medieval farmsteads unearthed along with spectacular structure just meters from 5,000-year-old County Meath ancient attraction

Archaeologists in County Meath have identified 40, previously unknown, ancient monuments meters from the famed Neolithic site of Newgrange. Among these monuments, dating back c. 5,000 years is a moment which like the Newgrange mound aligns with the winter solstice.

This monument, in particular, has been described as “spectacular” by the experts in the field, a gem in an “exceptionally successful” survey. This monument is believed to be 200 to 300 years younger than the Stone Age passage tomb at Newgrange.

'Spectacular' monument aligned with the Winter Solstice found near Newgrange https://t.co/S8RRkUXKUi pic.twitter.com/IrHxG7ekmN

— Independent.ie (@Independent_ie) August 7, 2019

Older than the Pyramids at Giza, Newgrange is undoubtedly the best known of the passage tombs at the ancient site of Brú na Bóinne (Boyne valley tombs), the area in County Meath. Newgrange was built, over 5,000 years ago, with the winter solstice in mind. Each year the dawn light on the winter solstice shines through a box above the entrance door and illuminates the inner chamber.

Dr. Steve Davis of the UCD School of Archaeology explained that this “spectacular” stretcher was discovered during a survey in 2017. He believes the monument was probably developed over several phases.

Inside Newgrange during the winter solstice.

Inside Newgrange during the winter solstice.

It includes a large rectangular arrangement of wooden posts, which enclose a timber or stone passage. They are then enclosed in several rings of smaller timber posts.

Although Dr. Davis believes it is unlikely to be a tomb, he believes it is “a key monument that is the largest and most complicated of its type in the world.”

Read more: The Boyne Valley - travel through Ireland's ancient mysteries

40 new ancient Irish monuments

The ancient tombs at Knowth.

The ancient tombs at Knowth.

The survey on both sides of the Boyne, within the bend of the Boyne and across from the prehistoric tombs at Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, was funded by the German government. It is part of the Boyne to Brodgar research project, which examines connections between Neolithic sites in the Boyne Valley and the Orkney Islands. Research is being carried out by the University College Dublin (UCD) School of Archaeology and the Romano-Germanic Commission, Frankfurt.

Newgrange at sunset.

Newgrange at sunset.

These newly discovered ancient sites range from early Neolithic houses to timber enclosures. There are also Bronze Age burial monuments and some early medieval farmsteads.

Davis said the 40 new structures were discovered using “21st-century archaeological technologies including satellite-based remote sensing, drones, airborne laser scanning, and geophysics".

A new henge discovered from the sky, using a drone, in 2018.

A new henge discovered from the sky, using a drone, in 2018.

He added, “These methods have in the last few years changed our understanding of the Brú na Bóinne landscape beyond all recognition."

Last year over 70 potential new monuments were reported to the National Monuments Service from June to August, including a large henge below Newgrange. Many of these were discovered due to the unusually dry weather and the use of drones photographing the countryside.

Read more: Major new ancient discovery as important as Stonehenge made thanks to Irish heatwave

Have you had the pleasure of visiting the ancient monuments in the Boyne Valley? Share your experiences and fondest memories in the comments section below. 

H/T: RTE / Independent

Ireland's anicent history: Newgrange, in County Meath.Getty.