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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Guest Post by J. S. Dunn, author of Bending the Boyne

It is my pleasure to welcome J. S. Dunn to The Maiden's Court today to tell us a little bit about these spectacular Neolithic mounds in Ireland.  Dunn resided in Ireland during the past decade and has a newly released novel of ancient Ireland, Bending the Boyne, available through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and indie bookstores. The U.S.-based publisher, Seriously Good Books, is a new imprint for historical fiction.

Bending The Boyne won first place, historical fiction, Next Generation Indie Awards 2011. This novel is based on archaeology in the vein of Jean Auel’s Clan series in prehistoric Europe, plus a dash of the earliest Gaelic myths.

Bending the Boyne: A Pathway to the Stars

Guest Post by J. S. Dunn, Author of 
Bending the Boyne

Why would anyone track the Neolithic mounds in Ireland? Lots of reasons! First, the great Boyne mound assembly is a UN World Heritage site that holds the majority of Europe’s prehistoric rock art. Second, most passage mounds have a location with spectacular views and require only a moderate hill climb to access.

And finally, if you are in Ireland to find your roots you will have searched as far back as possible. The passage mound tradition began prior to the fourth millennium BCE. If you are one of 40 million plus Irish-Americans you may well share DNA with the bones at these ancient sites. If you can’t find your ancestors due to missing records, give this a try. This experience literally goes to the bone.

How did Eire’s passage mounds begin and why? Let’s begin at the beginning, at the northwest coast.

Carrowmore megalithic “cemetery” has a concentration of small stone passage tombs dating to 4000+ BCE. Several tombs line up with distant tombs on the horizon and hint of alignment with the skies. The visitor center, like most in Ireland, provides excellent flyers that you can read and use during the guided tour or to walk the area on your own.
Carrowkeel to the east in Sligo provides unforgettable views. Perched above an ancient stone village and Lough Arrow are large mounds with unmistakable passages and clear orientations to the sky. The astronomy, the starwatching, had taken hold with the people who built these. This venerable landscape of passage mounds marking high places holds many secrets, empirical knowledge that is still being deciphered.
If you can tear yourself away from a spot that connects your bones with both earth and sky and makes you feel conscious as never before, head southeast to county Meath, to Loughcrew. Here the view sweeps literally to the Mourne mountains in the northeast and the Wicklow Mountains to the southeast. Immense mounds with stone-lined passages dot these heights, called The Storied Hills. Modern archaeology no longer scoffs at the equinox and solstice lovers, the amateurs who gather here to watch light sweep over intricately carved backstones on certain solar dates. Here the ancients captured light and time itself into a calendar of seasons. Plan to spend at least a half day exploring.
The next day you may choose to visit Loughcrew a second time to better absorb its features, or journey on to the biggest passage mounds in all Europe..

Don’t be put off by the narrow, twisting roads to reach the Boyne, or Newgrange as it is called though that is only one of the three major mounds set in a rough triangle at a great bend in the river Boyne. The three mounds are simply enormous. Once you recover from the visual surprise, your tour inside impresses again. Through a passage 19 meters (around 60 feet) in length, one steps into the central chamber that rises to a height of almost 20 feet. The corbelled ceiling in the inner chamber may drop your jaw for its simple but beautiful design that has kept this “passage tomb” dry for over five thousand years.
Newgrange from the air
Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth have stood since before the pyramids in Egypt, and Stonehenge. How did these great mounds come to be called “elfmounds”? That is some piece of propaganda! One answer may be the arrival in around 2200 BCE of metal-using warriors who introduced horses, a new pottery style – and unfortunately, the long bronze knife for warfare. Along the coasts of Spain, Brittany, and Ireland, the megalith culture of astronomy lovers, the peaceable starwatchers, appears to decline or change once metal users arrive on the scene. A clash of old and new beliefs; suddenly the engineered mounds that focus on the skies fall out of fashion – only to be later dismissed as the home of elves and fairies. Photos: see www.newgrange.com.

Weeks and months later, you may find yourself dreaming of starflung skies and joyous dancing around bonfires after a starwatch that took place in a pastoral, gentle and ancient era. You may find yourself buying a telescope or joining an astronomy club. After all, it is said we humans are made of stardust.

You can find out more about J. S. Dunn and Bending the Boyne at this website.

Copyright © 2011 by The Maiden’s Court


  1. I loved this book so much!! And the ending sentence on this post is gorgeous. We are stardust.

  2. Gorgeous and fascinating!! I'm adding this book to my TBR -- this sounds marvelous! Being in Boston, it's hard not to care about being Irish (and even though I'm Irish-y, I'm not Boston Irish, sigh! ;)). Lovely guest post -- thank you for sharing.

  3. Allison - glad to hear you enjoyed the book! I didn't pick this one up because I have too many on my TBR right now. But the post was beautiful.

    Audra - I don't know hardly anything about Ireland, I think it would be very insightful to read this.

  4. I will be looking for this book. Since high school, a very long time ago, I have been interested in this sort of thing. In addition, I am of Irish descent and we have been working on our family's genealogy. Ireland has called to me for a long time now. A trip there and to Scotland and England is a dream we hope to see happen in the next few years. I will be marking every one of these sites to visit.

    Thnak you for the interesting post.

  5. I will definitely be looking into this book and new publishing house/imprint. Wonderful guest post about a subject I know very little. I always think of Ireland being the oldest place on earth for some reason. These mounds bear that out. Congrats on the book!

  6. Librarypat - I hope that you do get to visit these sites. The beauty and history that surrounds them is amazing.

    Jenny - I am keeping my eye on this imprint too. Their first release was Eromenos by Melanie McDonald.


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