‘Incredibly Rare’ Discovery Shows How Ancient People Marked ‘Routes For The Dead’


Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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A study published Thursday detailed the discovery of a cluster of Neolithic cursus monuments across Ireland.

Cursus monuments are well documented across western Europe and Great Britain, defined by huge banks, ditches, causeways and palisades once used by the ancient civilizations we came from, according to the study published in the journal Antiquity. Until the most recent study, none of these monuments have ever been found in Ireland, with at least five of them being “incredibly rare” and possible “routes for the dead” into their afterlife.

Using LiDAR remote sensing methods, researchers generated 3D models of landscapes throughout Ireland.

“While my PhD focused on targeted geophysical and remote sensing surveys and excavations, what was sorely missing was a large-scale topographical model of the landscape, which would not only help to knit together all of the research that had previously been undertaken, but also help to discover new archaeological sites that were either hidden under trees and scrub overgrowth, or had been mostly levelled by thousands of years of ploughing,” study author James O’Driscoll told Newsweek.

Along with the cursus monuments, O’Driscoll’s survey also identified a “massive” Bronze Age hillfort, a new early medieval ringforts, and a slew of burial structures from the broad history of Ireland.

“The discovery of the cursus monuments is particularly significant, as these are incredibly rare in Ireland,” O’Driscoll continued. “There are less than 20 recorded cursus monuments in Ireland, and they typically occur in isolation or pairs.” (RELATED: A 27,000-Year-Old Pyramid Is Causing Much Debate For Big Archaeology)

The data also revealed that four of the five monuments were aligned with notable solar events. One of the cursus in Newgrange is perfectly aligned to the rising sun on the spring equinox, for example. This is no coincidence, O’Driscoll noted. Most academics believe there is a ritualistic role, possibly to do with burials and allowing the dead to move into the afterlife. Far more research is needed to establish an exact use for these sites.