No guarantee "wonderful discovery" near Newgrange will ever be excavated

The major find was exposed by the recent heatwave

No guarantee "wonderful discovery" near Newgrange will ever be excavated

newly discovered henge structure near Newgrange. Image: Anthony Murphy/Mythical Ireland

The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has welcomed a fascinating new archaeological discovery near Newgrange.

The Neolithic henge – or circular enclosure – was exposed by the recent heatwave and captured on film by local historian and photographer Anthony Murphy.

After extreme dry weather, features hidden under the surface are exposed as the grass above them remains slightly greener than elsewhere.

Mr Murphy uncovered the "very substantial" and previously unrecorded features using Aerial photography.

Mr Murphy told Newstalk he is "still coming back down to Earth" after making the discovery.

“I had a gut feeling, when we first saw what was in the field, that it was something very, very special and very unique," he said.

“But then yesterday when we got into conversation with some of the archaeologists, I think it was only then we realised how spectacularly big the find was - and how excited the archaeological community is about it."

Mr Murphy came upon the find with fellow local photographer Ken williams.

He is in the process of reporting it to the National Monument Service, however ther is no guarantee it will ever be excavated.

"The monument is on private farmland," he said. "A lot of people are asking if there is going to be an excavation."

"The simple answer is that is highly unlikely.

"There are a lot of monuments in the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Newgrange - probably around 200 monuments in that area and the great majority of them have never been excavated."

He said that over the last ten years a number of monuments have been discovered and, while they are protected national monuments, "ultimately, a dig has to be funded and it has to be done with the agreement of landowners." 

With a diameter of around 200 meters, the discovery is similar in size to the partially destroyed Site P - one of a number of henges in the Boyne Valley near Newgrange.

He said it appears to form a row-of-three with Site P.

"There would have been huge timber posts in the postholes at one time," he said.

"We are looking at huge amount of manual labour and time and dedication to the task by a community in the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age that likely were not using metal tools or anything like the kind of modern plant equipment that we would use in contraction projects.

"Sheer will and manpower put these things together." 

Mr Murphy said the Bend of the Boyne has the greatest concentration of late Neolithic henge structures in the world - as well the largest collection of Megalithic art in Western Europe and arguably, the finest examples of passage tombs in the world.

“If these turn out to be substantial discoveries, then I would be nothing short of utterly elated, chuffed and excited,” he wrote on Facebook.

The feature is believed to have been built around 2,500 BC – 500 years after Newgrange.

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht has described the find as “very significant.”

Its National Monuments Service has been informed and is now investigating the find further.