Emerald Isle

Stone Circles

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Stone Circles of Ireland

Ireland's mysterious prehistory, with all of its many extraordinary legends and heroes, is perhaps best symbolised by the ancient stone circles which stand in silent witness to ages gone by. To walk among these monuments is to come into contact with the liminal, the space between spaces, the secret realms of the otherworld and underworld, the beliefs and rituals of the earliest peoples of Ireland.

There are more than three hundred stone circles around Ireland, mostly along coastal mountain regions rather than in the boggy midlands, ranging in diameter from a few meters to well over a hundred meters across, such as the stone circle around Newgrange. Some are single rings, while others, like the Neolithic circle at Brú na Bóinne close to the Royal Site of Tara, are a series of concentric stone circles with earthworks around them. Whether splendidly wide or secretively clustered, they all evoke the same sense of wonder today.

While some date back to the Neolithic, most of them were erected during the Bronze age, and probably served several purposes, like observing important dates by the stars and heavens, locations for ritual gatherings, as outdoor schools of sorts, or some other mystical purpose we do not yet understand. They don't appear to have been graveyards, althoug single human remains have been found at several - perhaps interrred when the stone circle was first raised, as a sacrifice or guardian spirit.

Although Irish stone circles can be found in every part of the country, they are generally concentrated in the north and south, with different styles and construction techniques used for both. They can be made of any kind of stone, but sandstone and quartz tend to be well represented in their building materials, usually dug as deeply into the ground as they stand above it.

Some of them may have started out as passage tombs and been changed in their purpose by later Bronze age settlers. There are numerous examples of stone circles across the north and west of Europe dating from the Bronze age, so it seems likely these all originated within a similar culture, or at least the same spiritual belief system.

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