Editor - Passage Graves
Sir,- An article entitled "New findings on passage graves" which appeared in The Irish Times on Saturday, April 3rd last, has been brought to my attention and, since it incorrectly attributes to me certain statements concerning the alignment of Irish passage graves, it is necessary to set the record straight.
I did indicate, as reported, that the probability that Newgrange would align with the solstitial position as accurately as it does is about one in 10 or 15 which is of course, inconclusive. I then went on the say that unpublished reports indicating that other passages graves were also aligned with the solstices could, if they were authenticated, provide some support for the view that an astronomical alignment was deliberate. I at no time quoted, nor indeed am I aware, of any new evidence which will confirm that a number of Irish passage graves are aligned with the solstices of the sun.
Rather, I was at particular pains to point out that observations at Newgrange show that direct sunlight penetrates to the inner chamber for about a week before and one week after the mid-winter solstice, a circumstance which suggests that the function of the orientation of this monument, if it was deliberate, was not concerned with the making of precise calendar observations. The element of time resolution must be critically considered in all attempts to interpret the meaning of the orientation of particular structures and I summed up my original remarks on this subject by saying that a surmise consistent with the available evidence is that the underlying purpose may have been ritualistic or symbolic rather than scientific, although an element of astronomical awareness was probably also involved.
Finally, I note that I am not, as was reported, the secretary of the National Committee of Astronomy of the Royal Irish Academy.-
(Dr) Susan McKenna-Lawlor.
Boyne Valley Private Day ToursPick up and return to your accommodation or cruise ship. Suggested day tour: Newgrange World Heritage site, 10th century High Crosses at Monasterboice, Hill of Tara the seat of the High Kings of Ireland and the Hill of Slane where St. Patrick let a Paschal fire in 433 More ...