Harvesting the Stars: a pagan temple at Lismullin, Co. Meath

Lismullin is located in the Gabhra Valley, beneath the Hill of Tara, Co. Meath. It has become the best known of 167 archaeological sites discovered and investigated along the route of the M3 Clonee to North of Kells motorway. The discovery, excavation and interpretation of a large, circular post-built enclosure of Iron Age date is the centrepiece of this book. The author interprets the enclosure as an open air pagan temple and asks ‘Who built it? And how was it used?’ The evidence points to spectacular nocturnal rituals imploring the Gods for a bountiful harvest.

Frank Prendergast’s study of the archaeoastronomy of the site identified a relationship between the entrance avenue alignment and the rising of the Pleiades star cluster in the autumnal night sky. Historian Anne Connon speculates on placename evidence for a relationship with the cult of the God Lug (‘the shining one’), who has harvest festival associations. Other specialists describe cutting-edge scientific techniques that were applied to attempt to extract the greatest level of information from minute traces surviving in the soil. Earlier and later phases of activity, including a Neolithic decorated megalith reused as a capstone in an early medieval souterrain, are also described. The results of the excavations are integrated with findings from other archaeological sites discovered along the M3 route and additional sites across the wider landscape, including the Hill of Tara.

The book is written by Aidan O’Connell of Archer Heritage Limited and published by the NRA. This is the second M3 monograph and the 11th in the NRA Scheme Monograph series. It is available now through bookshops or directly from Wordwell Books, Unit 9, 78 Furze Road, Sandyford, Dublin 18 (tel: +353 1 2947860; e-mail: office@wordwellbooks.com; www.wordwellbooks.com)