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Minister of State Noonan launches Pathways to the Cosmos publication exploring the alignment of megalithic tombs in Ireland and Atlantic Europe

Published on Friday, 18 Dec 2020
Minister of State Malcolm Noonan

The meaning of some of the great European megalithic tombs and their orientation is explored in a new publication released this week to mark Winter Solstice.

Launched by the Minister for Heritage Malcolm Noonan TD at Knockroe Passage Tomb in Co. Kilkenny, ‘Pathways to the Cosmos’ contains a series of articles based on lectures presented at the 2018 National Monuments Service Archaeology Conference. That conference, held in Dublin Castle,  explored connections between Ireland and Atlantic Europe and the likely role and meaning of the dark sky to our prehistoric ancestors. It was organised by Archaeology Ireland on behalf of the National Monuments Service and the Office of Public Works.

Building on the conference, this book, published by Wordwell Ltd, further examines the meaning of the great European megalithic tombs and their orientation. The publication this week marks Winter Solstice, a significant astronomical date around which many megalithic monuments have been constructed.

The Atlantic countries of Europe have inherited a stunning legacy of megalithic, or large stone, monuments, dating from the earliest farming communities around 4000 BC. Many are tombs built to hold the remains of the dead. Many megalithic monuments, including Newgrange and Stonehenge, have a ‘directed view’, seeming to face towards sunrise or sunset at major turning points of the year, others to where certain stars rise in the night sky.

This work of eight experts is drawn together to show that only by looking at ancient societies’ beliefs on life, death, renewal and the nature of the universe can we hope to understand what the alignments of megalithic tombs mean.

Welcoming the publication, Minister of State for Heritage Malcolm Noonan T.D said:

“Our forebears sought to bring meaning to their world by constructing places of great symbolism. These prehistoric monuments have not lost their power or purpose. Their ancient symbology and ritual, and connections to nature, death and renewal still resonate with us to this day.

These sentinel monuments, many built around specific astronomical alignments, still inspire our awe. They are prized by communities across the land, in rooting our presence in a complex and resilient past. In our inheritance of these monuments, we recognise our obligation to understand, conserve and protect them and to make them accessible to all. I am grateful to Wordwell and Archaeology Ireland for working with us to ensure that the proceedings of our conference are available to all to mark this year’s Winter Solstice, a point in the calendar after which we look forward to brighter days ahead

Publication: 15 December 2020 Price: €10 / £10 Paperback, 120pp 9781916291256 Illustrated w/ photos