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Browsing Posts in Prehistory

This evening, I am paying a visit to Castle Sween situated on the edge of a sea loch (lake) called Sween in the West of Scotland.

This castle dates from the 12th century and features a high quadrangular stone wall, over 2m thick. At time of construction the castle formed part of the territory of the MacSweens who were lords of Knapdale. It may have been Dugald MacSween who promoted construction of the castle.

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Today, the weather in Glasgow has been quite poor and consequently not favourable for photos. Rain is lashing down as I write this. In any case I had to spend time today completing my tax return which resulted in today being ‘an admin day’.

In light of above I have decided this evening to focus on the River Boyne and its place in Irish history.

Boyne is one of the earliest recorded place names. Ptolemy recorded the river at the Bavinda ( a transliteration of the Celtic ‘illminated cow’) as far back as AD 150.The name Boinn orBoand refers to the goddess or divinised River Boyne.

Close to the Boyne can be found the famous prehistoric passage tombs of Bru na Boinne dating from the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Here there are 30-40 tombs found at Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth. Passage tombs comprise a circular mound or cairn delimited by a ring or kerb of stones covering a structure consisting of a passage and chamber. Newgrange is the most famous of the passage tombs. The Boyne region is also noted for the concentration of megalithic art; some 70pct of decorated stones in Ireland can be found here.

Moving forward to 1690 it was close to the Boyne that as fought the most famous military engagement in Irish history, the outcome of which still resonates to this day, particularly in Northern Ireland. The Catholic James II and Protestant William III commanded armies totalling 60,000 men. William’s forces won the day, and in so doing secured Protestant ascendancy over the Catholic establishment in Ireland of the time.

Here is a video clip of the battlefield whilst below can be found a reenactment soldier at the Visitor Centre.

Battle of the Boyne, Reenactment

Battle of the Boyne, Reenactment, Ireland

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Today, the thaw has at long last set in with temperature creeping above zero for the first time in ages. That is the good news. The downside is (a) grey and overcast weather, obvioulsy  not conducive to photography, and (b) a domestic crisis in the form of burst water pipes consequent upon the thaw.

This evening, I have decided to depart from topical matters to a quick overview of one of my key interests, namely prehistory as manifested in stone circles of which Scotland is home to at least 142.

Stone circles are unique to the British Isles and France, totalling about 390. We do not know for certain why they were built although latest thinking is for some sort of quasi-religious function providing a link between this world and the next together with a possible astronomical use. Many are close to or in sight of water.

I hold the builders of these constructions in great awe. The Stone Age was just that, with no modern tools. However, there must have an organised social structure able to harness, motivate and manage the large workforces necessary to locate, move and shape the heavy stones all at a time when people lived day-to-day in close harmony with the environment.  The circles and related structures were built from around 4000BC to 1000BC. Below is a selection of images and videos from my tours.

This image shows Croft Moraig in Perthshire which is easily accessible. The first phase of this circles dates from 3000BC.

Croft Moraig

Crof Moraig, Perthshire

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