Minister Madigan opens international archaeological conference in Dublin Castle on influence of astronomy on design of prehistoric tombs
Pathways to the Cosmos, a one-day conference on the alignment of megalithic tombs in Ireland and Atlantic Europe, will be opened by Minister for Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan TD in Dublin Castle on Saturday 15 September.
The conference, the first of its kind in Ireland, has been organized by Archaeology Ireland for the Department’s National Monuments Service and the Office of Public Works to mark the European Year of Cultural Heritage 2018.
With speakers from across Europe, the conference explores the role and meaning of the ‘dark sky’ to our prehistoric ancestors. During the Neolithic and Bronze Age periods across Europe, monuments were constructed with specific astronomical alignments that followed a common symbology and ritual. At the Great Passage Tomb of Newgrange in the World Heritage Site of Brú na Bóinne the rays of the winter solstice sunrise pierce through a specially built roof box above the entrance to the tomb, illuminating the burial chamber for a few minutes each December. This phenomenon continues to be celebrated with great crowds still gathering at the passage tomb each year as they would have done over 5,000 years ago when it was first built. Across the island, numerous other monuments were also constructed to with significant astronomical alignments, for example to capture the rising or setting of the sun on the spring and autumn equinoxes and the summer solstice. The conference theme was developed as a response to the growing interest in astronomical heritage with a focus on the importance of archaeological heritage for local communities and for the growing cultural tourism sector.
Speaking about the conference, Minister Madigan said:
“We marvel at the engineering capability of our ancestors in constructing these ancient monuments. They have not lost their power or purpose as we see communities continuing to congregate at these sites to celebrate ancient connections to nature, death and life.”
The Minister added:
“These connections resonate with us to this day and with our work to ensure our archaeological heritage is protected and made more accessible for communities and for visitors for generations to come.”