The Human Centered Design Podcast with Gerry Scullion

"Ancient Mysteries: Mythical Ireland with Anthony Murphy"

John Carter
March 20, 2024
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"Ancient Mysteries: Mythical Ireland with Anthony Murphy"

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We have an absolutely incredible treat for you on the show. Let me tell you a bit of a background. So when I’m travelling, or when I lived in Australia, and I get asked where I’m from, I say I’m from Ireland. But when I’m in Ireland, I say I live in Dublin, I’m from a place called Drogheda. And when I’m in Drogheda, I tell them where I grew up.

Well the location is not only the place of my birth, but it’s really, really historic. It’s on the banks of the River Boyne, a hugely historic location in Irish history for various reasons but this river is known internationally as the Brú na Bóinne, which refers to the mansion or the palace of the Boyne. And from the age of about 8 or 9, I remember going on a school tour and I became somewhat obsessed with this area of the river because on the bend of that river is a Neolithic tomb that predates the pyramids and is approximately 3,200 years old, Before Christ.

It’s a World Heritage Site and it’s quite simply a remarkable and a spiritual location, for me particularly, that I believe offers us a really rich connection to the past.

In this episode, I speak with Anthony Murphy of Mythical Ireland. Now Anthony is also from where I’m from in Drogheda and over the last 30 or so years, he has really explored the surrounding areas of Newgrange and has become a well of knowledge about that area.

Together with local artist Richard Moore, who coincidentally was instrumental in encouraging me as a teenager to pursue my love of design, well they’ve explored and uncovered knowledge that offers us new perspectives into what it might have been like at the time of Newgrange. Now of course, a lot of this is speculation, but we discuss nevertheless, what we believe we do know.

There’s an unbelievable revelation for me in this conversation, about things like, how they transported these huge boulders that are engraved from over 120km away to the site at Newgrange, how do they do that? Back and forth from the UK and further afield using boats?

I’m keen to learn more about the potential of the social structures at that time to try and get a peek of what it was like. Anthony was happy for me to get a clearer picture on what that might have looked like at the time.

So from a Human Centered Design perspective, I’m really curious what we can learn and derive from the Neolithic period and where we are today.

Episode Transcript

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[00:00:00] Gerry: Anthony, I'm delighted to have you here on This is HCD. I've been a big fan of your work and I used to watch it when I was away in Australia on YouTube. So I'm delighted to have you here. But for our listeners, maybe we'll start off by telling them a little bit about yourself, where you're from. I know it's going to be a difficult one, but what you do,

[00:00:23] Anthony Murphy: Yeah, well, I'm from Drogheda, which is the

[00:00:27] Gerry: where I'm from.

[00:00:28] Anthony Murphy: yeah, which is where you're from, which is. Very shortly going to become Ireland's next city. I'm fully convinced of it. Um, a very large town that serves as something of a gateway to the ancient Boyne Valley. And I'm very lucky that we live very close to all these very, very amazing places.

[00:00:50] Um, born in the seventies, raised here in a town and a country that was struggling economically. Didn't know what the hell was going to happen, uh, got a job in the newspaper because my father was the editor there. Uh, he said, you know, here's an opportunity. I was reluctant. Uh, I just wanted to be a writer, um, ended up working in newspapers for 30 years.

[00:01:19] Uh, but. Um, in 1999, which is just over 25 years ago, I met Richard Moore, who's a local artist here in Drogheda, and, uh, he just transformed the way I was kind of, uh, looking at the landscape, and, um, he told me some of the myths and legends, which I didn't know, and we began, uh, an epic journey together, which culminated in a book, Island of the Setting Sun, and I've been writing books and talking about all this stuff ever since.

[00:01:45] Um, Uh, as time goes on, it doesn't wane or doesn't lose energy. It just gets more and more interesting for me and more curious. Got married, uh, 20 over 25 years ago. Have five kids. Four of them are now adults. Uh, still live in Drogheda. Love the place. Love Ireland. Love the place. Love my homeland. You know?

[00:02:09] Gerry: It's, it's really great to see, like, it's great to hear as well, because, you know, when I was away and I was looking at, um, you know, a lot of the videos, I was learning more and more about it. And there was, when I was growing up, you mentioned Richard Moore there as well. I want to give a shout out to Richard, because I grew up very close to Richard, like, I'm, I'm talking about a couple of hundred meters away from his house.

[00:02:29] And he was the established artist in the town. Like, he was the, you know. The guy who's doing it, like, you know, he's selling the paintings and stuff and they're amazing stuff. His work, I always remember, was really, really beautiful, but he gave me a lot of advice to get my design portfolio ready. Um, and that's kind of what set me on my way once I went, got into university and, you know, studied design and stuff.

[00:02:53] So he was really the seedling, um, that allowed me to. To kind of get into my career and so forth, like, you know, but it's, it's amazing to think that we've both, we share that kind of ceiling together, like, you know, because collaborating with people is at the, the center of what we teach, we talk about, and this is HCD.

[00:03:13] We're all talking about change makers. So. It sounds like you've gone through a period of immense change from working, um, and collaborating with Richard and finding an awful lot about our native, uh, kind of the area, especially around the Bruna Boune. Are you okay to talk about a specific area? 'cause I remember reading a blog post that you, you wrote, I dunno, when you wrote the blog post, but I've just just found out it was from the late nineties.

[00:03:41] Um, when you found this, can you talk about the B trade discovery? 'cause I think that's just a remarkable story.

[00:03:47] Anthony Murphy: Well, that was, well, Baltrae was really what set in motion, I think, much of what was to follow. Um, it was one thing to be tramping around the fields looking at stones and to be reading books and, you know, archaeological books and mythological books. It was an entirely different thing to be making.

[00:04:07] Some sort of significant contribution in terms of a discovery. Baltrae was amazing because first of all, the Baltrae Standing Stones are located in a field close to the village of Baltrae, which is a coastal village. For those of you who don't know it, it's a village near the coast where the River Boyne enters the sea.

[00:04:25] About five miles east of where I'm sitting here. And, uh, so, uh, first of all, a lot of people didn't even know those stones were there.

[00:04:34] Gerry: Yeah, I didn't.

[00:04:36] Anthony Murphy: And Richard Moore has this uncanny habit of finding places that nobody knows about, uh, he just happens to enter fields or walk into a forest or, you know, walk along the edge of a stream or a river and find stuff that Apparently nobody else has noticed anyway, so he took me there in May of 1999 and we were looking Michael Byrne, who's an astronomer friend of Richard's and who, believe it or not, had worked for a short time in the Drogheda Independent in the 1980s.

[00:05:08] This is when I was a kid and I remember meeting him because he had taken photographs of Halley's comet in 1986. Well, Michael Byrne. Had been with Richard and had discovered that if you put your binoculars against the sort of long edge of this big stone, the larger of the two stones, he put his binoculars and he could see Rockabilly Islands out off the coast, uh, through the view.

[00:05:31] And so when I arrived and they told me this, I was, I just sort of intuitive, instinctively, the astronomer in me is always looking at these things. I was like, that looks like it could be winter solstice sunrise, lads. And their answer was, I know the sun doesn't definitely doesn't go down that far, you know, because what people forget in Ireland is that the angular distance between summer sunrise in mid June or 21st of June and 21st of December, the angle is actually almost 90 degrees.

[00:06:02] It's, it's an incredible distance of travel along the horizon. So I said, Oh, I think it does. So then Richard used to have this ship's compass, uh, don't know where he got it. I don't know if it's a thing that his father had or whatever, but it was a very large compass in a, in a sort of metal casing. Um, we used to haul this around to take measurements because it was.

[00:06:23] going to be a lot more accurate than your handheld compass. Um, so we took a measurement and the thing about magnetic readings versus true is that you have to consult your ordnance survey map, which will give you the differential, which I think back then was about 7. 8 degrees. So you had to take 7. 8 degrees off anyway.

[00:06:42] I think we calculated it was around 130 degrees of azimuth, maybe 131. And I said, I'm pretty sure that's winter solstice. Anyway, we weren't going to be able to find out until December.

[00:06:54] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:06:54] Anthony Murphy: Richard and Michael went to Baltray. I went to Newgrange. And they were sort of dispatched to Trey to make the observation and the sun was rising as they were walking up the field towards the stones.

[00:07:07] Uh, and, and Martin Brennan, when he made his discoveries, he wrote it in his book, uh, the Stars and The Stones about when they made their discovery at Lock Crew. He felt he was late for an appointment that that had been made 5,000 years ago. Um, but when, when they arrived at the Stones, the sun was just sitting off the, it was sitting on the horizon and.

[00:07:29] Almost in line with the islands, but just a couple of sunwits to the left or to the north of where the islands were. And, uh, so, uh, later that day, Michael brought his camcorder, showed me footage and I said, yeah, well, if it's two sunwits, that makes sense because there's this wobble of. Very slight wobble of the Earth's axis, uh, and we call it obliquity of the ecliptic, uh, and basically the, the Earth's, the, the Earth's angular, the, the, the angle of the Earth's, uh, tilt versus the plane of the solar system is wobbles between, I think, 22 degrees and 26 degrees.

[00:08:06] Something like that. Uh, I think at the moment it's like 23 and a half degrees. Anyway, this causes the sun's solstice positions basically to oscillate. So, um, it was fairly accurate for something that might be about 5, 000 years old. Now, the dating of standing stones is generally considered to be, uh, Bronze Age, but I think these ones are Neolithic.

[00:08:27] So that was a discovery. And it was like, Oh, here we go. Uh, the start of a wonderful adventure, you know. Um, and another thing about it that was fascinating was there was this distinct, distinctive. Intuitive aspect to it, it's like sometimes you have to switch off your scientific brain and let the other side of your brain do a bit of work, you know, and it's not even that it does work.

[00:08:52] It

[00:08:52] Gerry: but it was the curiosity,

[00:08:53] Anthony Murphy: things out, you know,

[00:08:54] Gerry: it was your curiosity there from the story you just told like about, you know, the assumptions that we made that the sun didn't go down that far, but then you're like, actually, you know, we're going to try it like, you know, and you experimented and, you know, you found out and you kind of questioned the assumption, which is a strong thing to do in, especially within design, but I guess like just looking at that as an example, um, of a discovery that you found the bits I'm really interested in for changemakers.

[00:09:23] generally who are kind of trying to make the world a better place. What can we learn from way back to those periods of time in terms of how, you know, civilizations were structured? What did it look like in terms of, um, you know, the, the spiritual beliefs and rituals that they had held at that time? So there's probably two questions in there, like, you know, Probably first of all, why was the sun so important to them other than the obvious of like, sources of heat and potential for growing food and stuff?

[00:09:53] Well, what was the spiritual benefit or the spiritual kind of beliefs at that time related to the sun?

[00:09:59] Anthony Murphy: the spiritual beliefs of the Neolithic. I think we can only sort of surmise or guess at. Yeah, there's nothing written down. I mean, we've not, we've nothing written down about Ireland. Uh, culturally.

[00:10:12] Gerry: this stuff, lads.

[00:10:14] Anthony Murphy: No, I mean the monks, the Christian ecclesiastical scribes began writing in the 6th, 7th centuries, so we have nothing.

[00:10:23] I think we can sort of guess a certain amount, um, with the caveat that we can never know for sure. Well, first and foremost, of course, the obvious thing is that these people were farmers. They were, uh, people who had brought, uh, cattle. And sheep into Ireland, uh, and pigs. Um, because before that we only had wild boar.

[00:10:45] So, and they also brought crop husbandry with them. So before that we didn't sow crops and we didn't, uh, we, we didn't keep animals for milk and for meat. Um, we were hunter gatherers before we, I say, we, as if, you know, I'm talking on when I say we, you know, I mean, the Irish people since the year dot, uh, So there's that.

[00:11:08] I mean, in Ireland, of course, we know about the capricious,

[00:11:14] Gerry: Yeah, go ahead. That's all good. I love the stance

[00:11:17] Anthony Murphy: the dog is,

[00:11:18] Gerry: the dog is trying to chime in. He's like, I know the answer.

[00:11:24] Anthony Murphy: in, in, in the Neolithic. Um, what was I going to say now? Totally distracted by that dog

[00:11:30] Gerry: No, it's all, it's all good. You were, I think we were talking about the, the neolithic, um, practices, um,

[00:11:39] Anthony Murphy: Yeah, they brought farming. So we know in Ireland about the capricious nature of weather and how, you know, I mean, it's not just from day to day and from week to week and from month to month, we noticed a pattern lately in Irish weather where we're tending to get a drought in the springtime or the early summer.

[00:11:58] But then, for instance, last summer, we had, I think we had a dry day. June, but we had a terrible July with the wettest July on record. I think, um, I've been keeping an eye, of course, on archaeology during drought seasons to try and capture some pictures,

[00:12:15] Gerry: about that in a minute. You're, you're amazing discoveries in that.

[00:12:17] Anthony Murphy: We've had spring droughts and we've had summer droughts, but then we've had these washouts, you know, uh, and you just imagine what would it be like to be a farmer in the Neolithic who hasn't got the access to the scientific knowledge that we've built up over generations, you know, because agriculture now is a science.

[00:12:32] Um, you, you know, very few farmers just put their finger up at and see what way the wind is blowing. Farming is very, very well thought out and planned. Um, And of course, it's very highly regulated now. So there's that. But I think beyond that, the sun and the moon and the stars hold this deeper mystery for pre literate and pre scientific societies.

[00:12:56] Now, they were scientific to an extent. They used science to a limited extent. They, they were much more attuned, I think, to the natural patterns of the year. I mean, we go by the, we have this nonsensical Uh, calendar, the Gregorian calendar, which puts new year's day on the 1st of January, which as an astronomical date is totally meaningless, you know, um, so, and this idea that some months of 30, some of 31 days, and, and one has 28 is bizarre as well.

[00:13:32] That's probably more closely tied to the lunar month. Uh, but even the lunar month is either 27 or 29 days, you know, um, anyway,

[00:13:41] Gerry: we're disconnected to time and, you know, kind of solar activity.

[00:13:45] Anthony Murphy: I mean, if you're in, if you're in the Neolithic, let's just put it this way. You've got no wristwatch. You've got no way of keeping time, um, other than nature and nature shows you everything.

[00:13:58] So they figured out, look, I don't think they figured this out in the Boyne Valley 5, 000 years ago. I think humans knew this since time immemorial. They knew that the further north you go, the further the swing between summer and winter. So for if it's inside the Arctic Circle. In summer, the sun never sets.

[00:14:22] In winter, it never rises. But as you get, as you move closer to the equator, the angle between summer and winter gets closer. So, uh, at these latitudes, it's not difficult to notice that sort of stuff. And then, you're watching, as the seasons progress, you're watching the effects of that. You're watching the effects of, obviously in winter, as the sun retreats down, uh, the horizon, it's rising in the south, southeastern setting, in the southwest, and it forms a low arc across the sky.

[00:14:50] The land is seen to die. The fields go barren and this is a time when you need to have a store of food. Actually, it's a funny thing, but you don't really need a store of food in winter. Um, when you need a store of food is actually, uh, the six weeks before the harvest in the summer. Uh, when last year's supply is likely to have run out.

[00:15:13] Um, so, so there are very practical reasons. That the sun, um, is worshiped, but then beyond that they make a god of the sun. They make a deity of the sun. We see that in the mythology, you know,

[00:15:26] Gerry: Did they worship the sun? Like, was it seen as that was the god? Like, did they believe?

[00:15:32] Anthony Murphy: that they had to, they believed they had to propitiate this deity in order to guarantee a supply of food.

[00:15:40] Gerry: there was religious and theology.

[00:15:42] Anthony Murphy: yeah, and I think some of that is evident in the mythology actually. Uh. If you look at the myth of Douth, for instance, the story of Douth as it is recorded in the Dinchanicus, which is a collection of myths about why places got their names, why the eminent and important places got their name, how and why they got their names.

[00:16:03] What's the story? What's the origin story of this place? And Dowd's origin story is that there was a king who ruled at a time when there was a, a, a moraine, a disease upon the cattle of Ireland. There was only one bull and seven cows left in the island. And, uh, during this famine, which like if you think about any mention of, okay, we have to assume that first and foremost, the story is mythological, but perhaps it also has a memory in it of an event.

[00:16:35] If in early Ireland, there was a disease on the cattle. I mean, I'm just thinking of the modern. situation we had in the year 2000. We had foot and mouth which threatened to wipe out the cattle and sheep herds of Ireland and Britain. We were very lucky that there were very tight controls put in place. Um, that, you know, uh, what, what happens during this famine?

[00:16:59] What happens is that the king orders all the men of Ireland to come and build a cairn. Well, it's called a tower in the myth, like the Tower of Nimrod, but you can see there that the ecclesiastical scribe is just trying to make the myth less pagan and more palatable to the Christian Bible, as it were.

[00:17:19] And, uh, in order to build this monument, The men of Ireland say to the king, we want endless day, uh, and the king's sister, who's a powerful sorceress or druidess, she casts a spell on the sun to make it stand still in the sky so that there'll be endless day. And, uh, everything goes fine until lust seizes the king.

[00:17:42] He, uh, commits incest with his sister. And as a result of this, the spell is broken and a sudden darkness comes and the men say they're abandoning, uh, Douth. And that forevermore its name shall be Dua. Uh, which is the Irish name of doubt, which means darkness or darkening. And in that I think we see elements of possibly a real event that Is it an indication that when things start to go south?

[00:18:08] agriculturally and weather wise and climate wise Um, should we build the biggest monuments that ireland has ever seen? To appease the deities and I think there's an element of that in the doubt myth, you know

[00:18:20] Gerry: yeah, and Nauth, which is a sister or brother to Dauth, um, houses Newgrange. So that's correct, isn't it? I got them right. I always get mixed up between Nauth is where Nauth is, isn't it?

[00:18:37] Anthony Murphy: No new range and now there are two different monuments

[00:18:40] Gerry: I know, Nauth and Dauth. So, where's Newgrange? Newgrange is part of Douth, is it?

[00:18:47] Anthony Murphy: no, it's between the two.

[00:18:49] Gerry: Between the two? Okay,

[00:18:50] Anthony Murphy: Yeah. So there are three separate and distinct monuments.

[00:18:53] Gerry: Newgrange, Nowth and Douth. So, there's three different ones.

[00:18:57] Anthony Murphy: And for some reason, so they all compete for us, they compete in terms of the splendor of them and the size and the nature of them. Um, but despite the fact that now. Is the largest and most ornate of the, the three, Newgrange, uh, dominates in the mythology.

[00:19:17] Gerry: yeah,

[00:19:18] Anthony Murphy: Newgrange has this additional importance, you know, it's like the central, the most important monument,

[00:19:24] Gerry: yeah. It

[00:19:25] Anthony Murphy: the other two, perhaps a little bit less so, you know.

[00:19:27] Gerry: the anchor point. Now, for people who don't know what Newgrange is, I'd love to know your description. How would you describe it when the American tourists come over and you provide them with tours and all the wonderful services you provide um, before they get out there and they go, what is Newgrange, Anthony?

[00:19:45] How do you, how do you describe it to them?

[00:19:47] Anthony Murphy: Um, I think Newgrange is best described, uh, in two, well, in two terms, two ways. First, uh, archaeologically and then second mythologically, you know. Uh, and also then astronomically, it is a very large stone monument. Uh, archaeologists call it a passage tomb

[00:20:09] Gerry: hmm,

[00:20:09] Anthony Murphy: is, uh, it's a, it's about 85 meters in diameter. It's a huge cairn, which means it's basically a huge pile of stones, all of those stones collected and gathered and brought to that place by humans.

[00:20:22] Surrounded by a giant ring or belt or curb of stones, 97 of them, weighing anywhere between 1 tons and about 8 tons apiece. Um, uh, and inside it is a passageway leading to a cruciform chamber with a corbel. Uh, roof in it, uh, where people were buried, but we believe people of great importance in Neolithic society, because there were very few people buried in Newgrange, unlike other passage tombs where we see, uh, evidence of communal burial.

[00:20:55] And, uh, once a year, well, when I say once a year, in the winter, uh, When the sun retreats far enough down the horizon and it's heading towards that place on the horizon when it's rising and setting, but it's in its rising place, it's heading towards that place where it stops at solstice

[00:21:14] Gerry: hmm.

[00:21:15] Anthony Murphy: in the mornings when it rises, it, it's light shines into the passageway through a special aperture above the doorway

[00:21:24] Gerry: Yeah,

[00:21:25] Anthony Murphy: and shines inside the chamber, a shaft of light.

[00:21:29] Lights up the darkness, this wonderful, golden, warm sunlight. And it is a thoroughly religious experience. Even though we've a tendency to approach Newgrange with a scientific mindset. Uh, it's very difficult to come away from seeing that as I have done and to not feel that you've had actually a religious experience, you know, that piercing of the darkness, it, it, what it looks like is, is, is, is.

[00:22:01] This symbol or this phenomenon of hope, you know, of light in the dark of hang on, sit tight guys. Yes, we're an agricultural society entirely dependent upon the sun, the weather, the climate,

[00:22:17] Gerry: yeah,

[00:22:18] Anthony Murphy: but the sun is turning. It's stopped. We can see that. And as the sun starts to slowly. Move back up the horizon. It starts to retreat again.

[00:22:29] Out of the chamber of Newgrange. And those are the days actually, after the standstill of the sun, when the astronomers of the day The people who built the monument and who were its chief scientific advisors. They're the ones who would have told the chief or the king of the day. The sun has turned. It's good.

[00:22:48] It's all good. Summer, summer is coming back, you know,

[00:22:52] Gerry: So, so there would have been some sort of social structures in place if they were burying the people with the, The perceived, I guess, power or significance in, in their, their community. Is that fair to say, like, if there's a, because my understanding of Newgrange was. There's three different places within the, the central tomb where they, where they bury those people.

[00:23:16] Um, do we know any more about what the roles were of those people? Were they, were they holding, like, guiding structures, like, um, holding mayor status amongst the community and what they had to do? Was there control and command happening amongst the community? Are we able to drive any of those kinds of insights about what it looked like?

[00:23:37] Anthony Murphy: I think we can to a degree. So, I mean, anywhere in the world where you see, um, ostentatious large scale.

[00:23:46] Gerry: It's huge.

[00:23:47] Anthony Murphy: Monument construction like brunia, you can be pretty sure that somebody's in control. You know, you can be pretty sure that there's a hierarchy, a hierarchical society, you know, a stepped society. Uh, so we've always sort of thought about that for long, long time, since, probably since the sixties, since the excavations began at Newgrange.

[00:24:12] It's something we've thought about. Who and how, you know, why would a society. Bill, this thing, not just this one, but two others. And then, you know, probably two or three dozen satellites, smaller ones, you know, um, is this just an egalitarian thing where everybody comes together one day and say, let's build monuments, or is it somebody's holding power and commanding, and of course, almost exclusively around the world where you see huge architecture, somebody's in command now, I believe that we got.

[00:24:47] Significant, maybe not the final answer, but I think we got significant insights into that in 2020, when a paper was published about DNA and the DNA and the genetic study of the Prehistoric Ireland is revealing things that are, well, they're probably truly shocking some people, you know, and the big, big revelation of 2020 was that one of the men buried in New Grange, there were skull fragments found.

[00:25:18] And this is interesting because just, just, just, just as a way of sort of introducing this in Irish passage tombs. A significant portion of people's bones are cremated, but there's also a significant portion that aren't cremated. But everything is fragmented. Everything is small fragments. Except for, we see this tendency, we see it in Sligo, we see it in Brunabonia, we see it in Fornox.

[00:25:43] There's this tendency where there are large skull fragments. And this is uncremated material because the cremated bones, unfortunately, don't usually yield DNA. Uh, so anyway, the Lara Cassidy and her team, uh, uh, Dan Bradley, and the whole coterie of experts, they ran the genome on this guy and assumed that something was wrong with the software, with the computing power.

[00:26:10] Uh, it used to be that you could only sequence part of the genome, but we've got super computers now. So. Entire genomes can be sequenced. What it was showing was long runs of what's called homozygosity, which basically means, in layman's terms, uh, yeah, the same source. And this person, it looked from the initial data, this person was the product of a first degree incestuous union.

[00:26:35] And to put that in simple terms for your listeners, That means this person's parents were likely to have been brother and sister. And if not brother and sister, which is a first degree

[00:26:48] Gerry: Hmm.

[00:26:48] Anthony Murphy: then the next best thing, the next closest thing, is father and daughter or mother and son. So they ran the sequence again and came up with the same result.

[00:26:58] Um, I don't know how shocked people were. Uh, we probably shouldn't be all that shocked because if that man, he was a man, probably around 40, uh, when he died or early forties, maybe if, you know, if you've got, we need to put something straight here, Newgrange, the stones, the large stones of Newgrange, those weighing between one tons and 10 tons, they all came from Clougherhead.

[00:27:29] They have to have been brought by sea and river, a journey of 31 kilometers in

[00:27:33] Gerry: I was going to ask this. Yeah.

[00:27:37] Anthony Murphy: Um, you've got stones coming from Wicklow, apparently, the White Quartz. If not Wicklow, the Rockabill Islands, which we mentioned earlier. Uh, and then you've got stones coming from Dundalk Bay.

[00:27:48] So, there's people going incredible distances carrying stones along this. So, first of all, as soon as you see that. The alarm bells should be ringing. Somebody is dictating this. Somebody's controlling these, you

[00:27:59] Gerry: Someone's asking. Yeah.

[00:28:03] Anthony Murphy: one of only five people buried in Newgrange, if he had first degree incestuous parentage, what does that tell us?

[00:28:12] It's likely that he was some sort of a dynastic ruler, a god king, who's like the Egyptians, uh, like the Egyptian pharaohs, uh, where, you know. Keep it in the family and all of that. But In reality, they probably told people that he was the son of the son of the deities. They probably propagated the idea.

[00:28:33] I'm speculating here. Uh, so science doesn't tell us this, but, uh, they probably propagated the idea that he was the son of the sun God, that he'd been conceived inside new Grange of a mortal woman, uh, with the sun God. Because if you look at some of the myths, you know, and you look at Angus

[00:28:52] Gerry: There's

[00:28:52] Anthony Murphy: particular, Angus's conception is quite miraculous, you know.

[00:28:57] Gerry: Can we just go like, cause for a lot of our listeners, some of this stuff is like, wow, well, what's the connection here? And like for, for a long time, my ignorance was, you know, Once the Industrial Revolution came along, we were like suddenly smart, you know, what, what we can derive from this stuff, especially when you look at indigenous Australia, when I did some exploration and, um, that worked down there in regards to engineering amongst the indigenous communities, this stuff goes back 50, 000 years, like we can find some really powerful information.

[00:29:31] But when you look at how they move those rocks, you can see that. They're either doing some serious manpower in terms of carrying them with large amounts of people or they were using the proximity of the river to ship these rocks. So it starts to ask the question of like, how advanced was the society and did parts of this civilization just.

[00:29:58] Die like I want to understand a little bit more around if you've got any insight to how they move those rocks. I know a lot of it's speculation probably like and how they did it. That's probably the first question. And then the second question is. Um, their evolution, what their farming techniques. Is there anything around that that we can really derive and really kind of play back to our own place in society at the moment?

[00:30:23] Because to add a third question to the to the other two, you know, it almost feels like we're at a point in time where We're trying to call back that period of connection to the earth, because when you look at the damage we're doing in terms of, uh, creation of products and services and all that, you want to understand what we can derive from, what we can learn from this, this civilization.

[00:30:52] Anthony Murphy: Um, the, well, the first thing, the first thing to say about the Neolithic is don't, don't get caught in the trap of imagining that this was an era in which people were in tune with you. This is something I used to write about myself, um, in, in, in, in, in, in an era before I had the data, you know, before I had read all the stuff that I've read.

[00:31:17] So don't, don't definitely don't get into the idea that the people of Neolithic Ireland were somehow. Uh, more ecologically, uh, friendly or environmentally friendly. Remember that farming, when it arrives here and elsewhere, immediately requires a total change in terms of how you interact with your landscape. So, hunter gatherer mobile societies follow the availability of food. As it appears seasonally around Ireland's a small country. So, you know, I can't imagine following the Buffalo across the Great Plains of America, like the Native Americans, uh, the tribes, we can't imagine, you know, hunting certain animals across the Pontic step, for instance, you know, across huge areas of land.

[00:32:12] Uh, but the Neolithic brings with it a requirement, which is okay. We need to graze these cattle, but we need to make sure that we're able to get them to take the milk from them. So that requires putting them in some sort of enclosures or

[00:32:27] Gerry: pen. Yeah.

[00:32:28] Anthony Murphy: Yeah, you know, um, and then if you're starting to grow, uh, grains, uh, you also have to create fields.

[00:32:37] So Ireland until 6, 000 years ago was very heavily forested. Now, the extent of that, I think is not quite clearly known. It has been claimed. That in the Mesolithic, in the age that came before the introduction of farming, that a squirrel wishing to travel the entire length of the island could do so from Mallinhead in the north to Mizzenhead in the south, without its feet ever touching the ground.

[00:33:06] Gerry: Wow.

[00:33:08] Anthony Murphy: I actually doubt that. To be honest, um, but they're, you know, uh, there are areas where trees don't grow hilltops and some mountain tops and then there's, you know, bogs and all of

[00:33:19] Gerry: might have had to walk a few hundred feet.

[00:33:21] Anthony Murphy: you know, um, so we had to deforest, you know, the Neolithic farmers had to deforest, um, and it is really, it's been described as the beginning of civilization, that the beginnings of Western, Western is probably a bad idea because We see cities everywhere, but it's been described as the beginning of what we, what we understand a settled civilization today.

[00:33:46] So, um, it's, you know, the thing about it is that at what point do you become aware that what you're doing is actually. Counterproductive, you know, uh, removing vast swathes of forestry for agriculture, you know, because even today with all our science and all our knowledge, we don't seem to understand these things when we just have to look at Brazil as an example of that, you know, uh, and look at parts of, is it Java?

[00:34:18] Um, uh, Borneo, I think Borneo,

[00:34:22] Gerry: Borneo.

[00:34:23] Anthony Murphy: yeah, uh, where, you know, I think there's only 10, 20 percent of the entire forest left after half a century of deforestation, you know,

[00:34:33] Gerry: We're not doing a great job in keeping, uh,

[00:34:35] Anthony Murphy: so there's that, um, you know, I think the thing about humans is we don't change.

[00:34:46] Gerry: Mm.

[00:34:47] Anthony Murphy: We don't, the Neolithic people aren't that different to us, how they differ is largely in that.

[00:34:55] Well, first of all, they don't have our knowledge and experience. They don't have that, you know, uh, as, as the sort of pioneers of farmers, they don't have that long history of farm farming behind them where they're able to say, Hey, you should do this and you shouldn't do this. And, you know, they're obviously watching for the signs for planting and all of that. Um, what were the other questions?

[00:35:20] Gerry: There was one where they had to move the rocks, like, from, if they're saying they're, they're coming from whatever, 35 kilometers in some, you know, Wicklow, which is much, much further. It could be. Maybe 100 kilometers, I guess, probably, um, from that

[00:35:35] Anthony Murphy: 80 at least. Yeah. Yeah.

[00:35:37] Gerry: Um, and they didn't have the proximity of water there.

[00:35:42] They didn't, in some of those locations, from my understanding, I mean, which is old data, I'm sure, how would they have transported that? It would have taken them a very long time and an awful lot of effort to get them to this point. So, going back to your original point, which you've kind of answered, most likely had some sort of hierarchical structure there in society that dictated that you need to go and do this.

[00:36:04] This is your job to move these rocks, and they could be away from months at times, like, you know, which probably it's another question on top of that, like, how would they have discovered those rocks down in Wicklow? There would have been some sort of communication, other settlements, other communities potentially down in that location.

[00:36:22] Anthony Murphy: Yeah. Um, well, I think they're the first thing that we should realize about the Neolithic community who built the monuments of Brunibonia is they're a very mobile people. Um, yes, they end up settled. But remember they've, they've, they've emigrated across Europe from the area of Turkey, which is a large part of Turkey that we would call Anatolia.

[00:36:46] That's, that's the sort of genetic origin of the Neolithic farmers. And actually Ireland is the last place they arrived because, you know. migrated east, uh, westwards across Europe, eventually reaching the coasts. And then the next thing is get into boats and come to the islands. So the very fact that they've gotten into boats, we think from France actually, uh, and arrived in Western Ireland indicates their mobility, you know?

[00:37:08] Um, um, so we also have this thing where, you know, the monuments of Neolithic Ireland have similarities to Neolithic Britain, and it looks like. There is such mobility that they're actually crossing the sea to participate, you know, some of them coming from Britain to Ireland and, and, uh, uh, and vice versa.

[00:37:27] So there's that don't, don't, don't ever assume that these are a people who for him, seafaring is a challenge. I think actually the, you know, Bob Quinn who wrote the Atlantean, I had the pleasure of interviewing a few years ago. He says that he maintains we, we learned to. Sail the oceans long before we saddled a horse, which I think was a very good way of saying, yeah, this is, this is stuff we've known since time immemorial, you know, uh, the large stones from Clara Head are interesting because if you're trying to quarry stones in the Neolithic, well, you have a challenge, which is how do you quarry stones when you don't have metal tools?

[00:38:06] So you use harder stones, apparently, but at Clara Head, where the two continents came together. Uh, 420 million years ago, Clara head is the result of the coming together. So I don't know your listeners may not know this. Um, and I didn't know this something about 10 or 15 years ago, and I was totally blown away by it, but there's a, a suture, they call it a seam, uh, running down from Clara head down to the Shannon estuary.

[00:38:36] So everything north of that and everything south of that were once upon a time located on different continents, separated by an ocean. Called the app. We call that the Apptus Ocean. And we call the seam or the suture, the apptus suture. Well, you see the, the, the, the Seti sedimentary rocks. The sandstones of Clearhead, uh, when the continents came together, were pushed upwards so that they, they're vertically formed and basically, apparently all the farmers had to do was go out there with wooden poles and nudge them or wedge them in between the cracks and the stones.

[00:39:08] Uh, and that way sort of. Break the stones off, get them onto the beach and either strap them to the underside of a, some sort of a barge

[00:39:18] Gerry: Hmm.

[00:39:19] Anthony Murphy: or get them placed into some sort of a large dugout canoe. Canoe. Uh, which to be honest, sounds quite hazardous , and I think it would've been

[00:39:27] Gerry: Well, it's actually a pretty big boat. Hmm.

[00:39:30] Anthony Murphy: Yeah, and this is the important thing.

[00:39:32] And this gives you, I suppose, an insight just into how resourceful these people were. Those stones weigh a minimum of one tonnes. Some of them weigh seven, eight tonnes. I think maybe the largest stones at Newgrange might be as much as ten tonnes. Each of those is brought by boat down along the coast, up the river, deposited on the riverbank, and hauled up a kilometre from the river to Newgrange.

[00:39:57] Uh, there's 97 kerbstones. There's probably 60 or 70 orthostats that form the passage walls and the chamber. And then there's another 100 or so stones. I think the total is between 300 and 400 large greywacke slabs that form the major structure of Newgrange. So you've got 300 or 400 journeys up and down the river there.

[00:40:20] And all of those journeys have to take place, I think, at high tide. Certainly, you can't Risk low tide, because you might lose a stone. even to that, so, somebody might say, well, how do we know they didn't drag them across land? Well, how we know is we've no evidence for that, first of all, and secondly, it's, trust me, if you tried to drag something across land from Clarehead to the Boyne Valley.

[00:40:45] You've got immense challenges. You've got immense challenges in topography, in terms of rocky outcrops, in terms of streams and rivers that you have to cross. It's much easier just to put it in a boat and come down the, the, the, along the coast and up the river, you know. And I actually wondered about the stones of Baltray, whether they weren't a signal, a signpost on that journey, because they're made from greywacke.

[00:41:10] It looks exactly like the stone that's used

[00:41:14] Gerry: I was going to say, is it, is it a visible landmark of where we're at to start maybe change course?

[00:41:19] Anthony Murphy: It, it is, you see, it would be in that the sea was right up against the, the bluff there at Baltray. In the Neolithic, but the land that sort, sort of, there's much more land visible now between there and the sea that has been naturally reclaimed. And that's the location of the County Loud Golf Club. If anybody's ever played golf at Baltray at the County Loud Golf Club, that's all naturally reclaimed land.

[00:41:45] Uh, Frank Mitchell, the late great geologist. He said that that was all thrown up in the interim, that in the Neolithic, the coast, the sea came right up against the base of the bluff at Baltray. So it makes sense that close to the junction of sea and river, there'd be a waypoint, something up on the land.

[00:42:05] Oh yeah, we're coming to the river now, you know.

[00:42:08] Gerry: One of the, one of the pieces, all of this seems to make complete sense when you're, when you're, when you're saying it, which is great. But, um, the, the symbols that are on some of the rocks at Newgrange, when I was in Uluru, um, and I was visiting there with my wife before we had our first kid. We, we connected with some local artists and.

[00:42:31] One of the paintings that I bought had these spiral symbols, and I was like, hey, okay, well, job done on buying this one. This, this makes sense to me. And I spoke to the artist and I said, hey, what's the symbolism between these spirals? And this is, oh, well, in the indigenous culture, the spirals mean community and proximity to each other and, um, how we support each other.

[00:42:57] And there's a river flowing through one of them, and I was like, obviously I'm making the connection back to my homeland, which is what we're talking about here, folks. Is it the same in Newgrange, do you, do you feel like those spirals are the symbolism for habitats? Are they, are they guiding structures for the maps potentially with, uh, where other communities might be in the, in the area such as Douth?

[00:43:25] Anthony Murphy: Um,

[00:43:27] Gerry: Or am I taking it too literal?

[00:43:29] Anthony Murphy: I'm inclined to think, of course, look,

[00:43:33] Gerry: Who knows?

[00:43:33] Anthony Murphy: megalithic art and the interpretation of megalithic art in Ireland is an area that is fraught with great. Difficulty. You have to understand, we've no way of proving, one way or the other, a myriad of theories, and there are literally hundreds of theories as to what the spiral, the triple spiral in particular of Newgrange, this one that I have around my neck, the triple spiral that is found on the chamber and

[00:43:58] Gerry: Oh yeah. Yeah.

[00:44:00] Anthony Murphy: But, I mean, I'm inclined to think, because of the prominence of the spirals on the entrance stone and in the chamber where the sun goes in, that the spiral has some connection with the sun and the sunlight.

[00:44:12] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:44:13] Anthony Murphy: And in fact, it was Martin Brenham, in his book, The Stars and the Stones, that pointed out that, well, actually, the spiral is a lovely representation of solar movement.

[00:44:22] The way the sun moves from solstice to solstice, because in the winter, it's low. And in the summer, it's high. If you look at the arc of the sun in winter, where it rises and where it sets, it's a lower, and then at the equinox, it's a bigger arc. And then at the summer solstice, it's a much bigger arc. Well, if you just follow that, imagine that you're following the sun beneath the horizon from day to day, you're basically creating a spiral that's getting larger and larger as the sun moves higher in the sky.

[00:44:49] So for me, that. Would be the most obvious explanation of the spiral, that solar movement, and then the fact that the sun deity, Dagda, is connected in the mythology with the monument. To me, that suggests that that's likely what it's about. Am I right? I don't know. Can I prove it? I don't know. Uh, someday we'll invent time travel.

[00:45:12] We'll go back in time, and we'll try to communicate with the builders and say, listen, uh, we have this

[00:45:16] Gerry: You and Richard.

[00:45:17] Anthony Murphy: theory. Would you tell me whether it's true or not? You know?

[00:45:20] Gerry: and Ted.

[00:45:22] Anthony Murphy: You know, and you, yeah,

[00:45:23] Gerry: Richard and Anthony.

[00:45:25] Anthony Murphy: you might be confronted with, uh, you know, a neolithic

[00:45:28] Gerry: Party on. Yeah, I can just see the two of yous in a,

[00:45:31] Anthony Murphy: of just going, uh, you're, you're a bit wide in the mark there, buddy, you know?

[00:45:36] Gerry: So look, um, there's loads of stuff we, we, we can derive from it, but like you, you mentioned you've got five kids. Um, how do you convey the importance of these significant spaces, um, in Ireland, like in their importance to our kind of current predicament? Like what, what do you derive from all of the work that you and Richard.

[00:46:00] you know, brilliantly have done. What are the, what are the key insights that you, you kind of say, well, actually the, this is what we can learn from, from all this work. Yeah.

[00:46:12] Anthony Murphy: there's an idealist in me, you know, um, there's a poet and a dreamer in me that always thinks that one of these days, any moment now, uh, peace is going to break out amongst humankind. We're going to realize. Yeah, we're destroying the planet. We're destroying each other. This is ridiculous.

[00:46:32] We're going to sit down and work it all out. Um, so that's the idealist in me. Um, and there is a sense of definitely there has been in the work that I've done and I've done some very poetic, um, work. And some of what I've written has sort of verged into the area of spirituality and religion. I would say that it's very difficult to look back at all of that and not be moved by it and not to feel the humanity behind it and the awe behind it.

[00:47:01] And some of that has to do with, well, it's amazing what was achieved by people years ago before they had all this technology. Um, but if you look at all the technology we have. I think that it's likely that the people who built Newgrange would look at our environment, uh, and judge us very harshly on that. We pollute our rivers. We pollute our atmosphere. We've caused the extinction of species. We've encouraged monoculture. We've wiped out habitats. Uh, we expand our own habitat with no regard. Not just scant regard, but literally with no regard for the other creatures with whom we share the planet. So you inevitably sort of get into reflecting on all of that.

[00:47:52] But then there is another side to that, which is, as I said earlier, the Neolithic people were, I, I don't think they were conservationists. I, I, I, I don't think that, um, uh, sustainability was part of their

[00:48:08] Gerry: Model.

[00:48:09] Anthony Murphy: or their, their language, you know, I mean, it was literally survive. Eat, survive, live this day out, live this week out, you know, um, I mean they were dying of things that are eminently curable today.

[00:48:25] They Had harsh lives. I mean, I said this on a one of my own live streams recently and somebody criticized me for it, you know, but it's the reality. If you look at the if you look at the ages of the people, the skeletons, the bone remains of the people are buried in these tombs. And you've got everything from infants and young children and adolescents to young adults.

[00:48:49] I mean, nobody in the Neolithic seems to live very much beyond the age of 40. You know, so don't give, don't give me this crap about, you know, oh, it's such a wonderful, peaceful era and, you know, oh, it would have been so lovely. Don't romanticize about it, you know.

[00:49:06] Gerry: It would have been a struggle. Yeah.

[00:49:08] Anthony Murphy: we learn, I think, when we look into the past is we learn about our own humanity.

[00:49:13] We learn about our own flaws. Uh, we learn about our own, uh, biases. Um, uh, I think when we look into the past, we see a reflection of modern man, modern woman. Um, but we've just take away a lot of the technology, take away a lot of the language development, you know, take away a lot of the way we do things.

[00:49:39] Um, I think ultimately that we all, if we were to go back in time and we were to live among these people for a while and, or conversely, if they were to come forward and live among us for a time, I think we would see one thing. Very clearly, and that is the shared common humanity, the fact that despite all our technology now and all the things that we know, we are still desperately ill informed about what happens to the human being when the human being mortally dies, you know, and if there actually really is anything beyond, uh, there's a lot of very interesting work. Elizabeth Kubler Ross, for instance, on, you know, um, life after death and other people who've written about it. Um, I think that was the thing that preoccupied the builders of these monuments. They knew that their lives were fleetingly short, and they tried in their lifetime to create permanence in the monuments.

[00:50:54] They were literally, they literally created monuments. That they thought would last forever. They thought well, it's taken so much effort to put these together. 

Something happened the technology there. There's a lot of can you hear me? No. Hello. Can you hear me? Yeah. Hello

[00:51:38] Yeah, I was really getting into it there, wasn't I?

[00:51:42] Gerry: It was a great flow as well. You were talking like the significance that you were putting your time and energy into building something of permanence. And that's, yeah,

[00:51:52] Anthony Murphy: I think that was a big feature of it. 

It's something I wrote about in my book. That's called Newgrange Monument to Immortality. And it was the idea of creating permanence in a fleeting life. Um, I mean, you know, like you think back to when you were in your twenties, right? You're you're say you're mid twenties.

[00:52:10] For me, I was on the cusp of, I got married and I was just about to start having a family. Imagine in the Neolithic. That's when, that's when you're going to die, you know, that's, that's when that's even if you've managed to survive childbirth, which by the way, kills a lot of people in the Neolithic, both the mothers and the children, unfortunately, if you've managed to get through childhood into adolescence, and finally you make it into adulthood, that's it, game over, you know, this is the point in life when a lot of us are starting to think about Yeah, I think I might settle down.

[00:52:42] I think I might get married. I think I've finally got my career going, or you're maybe still thinking about your career. Well, back in the Neolithic, it's like,

[00:52:49] Gerry: Lights out.

[00:52:49] Anthony Murphy: it. Sorry. You know, unless you're an outlier and you happen to survive into your thirties and maybe as far as 40, you know, um,

[00:52:58] Gerry: Here's a question for you and, you know, as I said, we're probably coming towards the end of the arc here, but it's Newgrange in particular, and we used to think it was two and a half thousand years before Christ. That's, you know, Kind of a rough estimation, but I think it's increased now to maybe 4, 000 years before Christ.

[00:53:16] Is that right?

[00:53:16] Anthony Murphy: no, it's 3000. It's actually very precisely dated now. Uh, quite. precise. It's around 3200 to 3100 BC, that sort of timeframe.

[00:53:29] Gerry: So at that time when they created Newgrange, they didn't expect it to be kind of rediscovered say in the 1960s in Ireland. What happened? to that monument. Like, how do you feel, um, that the monument and that civilization might have been somewhat forgotten about?

[00:53:54] Anthony Murphy: Um, how do I feel about that?

[00:53:57] Gerry: What's your knowledge about that space, like, as regards how did it

[00:54:01] Anthony Murphy: it is, it's really interesting. It, so it seems that the, the stones on the top of the cairn rolled down off the side and they covered everything. They covered all the curb stones and they covered the entrance. So nobody knew there was an inside or at least. Nobody was able to venture in there.

[00:54:16] So, we've got Viking era graffiti inside and out, where we don't have that at Newgrange. We believe Newgrange was sealed off for 4, 000 years. Which is even more incredible when you consider in the 1960s that local people were telling the archaeologists the sun shines into the chamber there, but they couldn't have seen that.

[00:54:33] You know, if the archaeologists are right about Newgrange, the sun couldn't have been seen shining into the chamber for 4, 000 years. So how, how does that knowledge get carried on? Which is one of the extraordinary, one of the many extraordinary things about Newgrange. But I think there's an interesting question there about how does it, how does it remain sort of hidden and, Undiscovered for, well, a big part of the reason is to do with colonization and the arrival of new people, and that doesn't just start with the Normans and the English, by the way, that starts literally, uh, in the era in which people are still using stone tools, uh, the late Neolithic, because there is an arrival of people who, um, We call them the Beaker folk, who, uh, begin for us a different age, which is the Bronze Age.

[00:55:26] And within a couple of centuries, they're using bronze tools. They're, we now know, they are a completely genetically diverse population to the Neolithic people. There are people, again, who've come across. Uh, Europe. This time, uh, they have different origins. They're from the steppe, the Pontic steppe that I mentioned earlier, the steppelands of what would be today southern Ukraine and parts of Russia.

[00:55:52] And, uh, uh, I think colonization is important. The English, I mean, indigenous Irish people never forgot about their monuments. The stories about those monuments survived across vast timescales.

[00:56:10] Gerry: Yeah.

[00:56:11] Anthony Murphy: Orally, we never wrote anything down because most Irish people couldn't write. You know, we didn't write. Remember when writing arrived, it was the religious, it was the ecclesiastical scribes who wrote.

[00:56:23] The vast majority of Irish people never wrote until the 20th century. I mean, when you think about that,

[00:56:29] Gerry: That's

[00:56:30] Anthony Murphy: most Irish people couldn't read or write throughout Irish history. It was only, it was only in the 20th century that people began to become literate. You only have to look at the census of, is it 1904?

[00:56:45] It's early 1900s. And you'll see under a lot of people's names, you know, um, that the enumerator is the one that signs their signature for them because they can't read or write. Um, so, uh, I think part of the reason that Newgrange remains hidden, as it were, is, believe it or not, to do with Uh, uh, the, the Antiquarians who wrote about Newgrange and other monuments, I'm talking about, uh, in the centuries before the 20th century.

[00:57:17] So from the time New Grange was discovered, uh, 1699, I, when I say discovered, just in case your listeners are confused, how does an enormous mound or of, uh, Karen, uh, get lost? It doesn't. It's the interior of Newgrange that got lost. They didn't know there was something inside it. Uh, that was rediscovered in 1699.

[00:57:36] If you look at the Antiquarian writers, they cannot, the English ones in particular, the British ones, they can't get it into their heads that there were clever Irishmen and clever Irishwomen in prehistory. So they always ascribe the building of these monuments to somebody else. The Danes. You know, as in the Vikings, which are much, much, much, much later.

[00:58:00] Um, so that's part of it, you know, and then behind the scenes quietly. knowledge of the sun shining into Newgrange at a certain time of year gets preserved by people living in the area. Amazing, amazing stuff they can't have seen that. can't, they or their descendants, sorry, their ancestors, they can't have seen it in recent history because even if the front of Newgrange hadn't become covered with those tumbled down stones, there's the fact that the compression of the Cairn material on the passage means that even if it had been cleared out, the sun would have been cut off.

[00:58:45] The sun couldn't have shone into the chamber of Newgrange since.

[00:58:48] Gerry: so the people locally knew about the fact that there was something there that the sun shone into that had carried through from centuries. Is that what we're

[00:58:57] Anthony Murphy: you read O'Kelley's book about Newgrange, Michael J. O'Kelley, who's the excavator of Newgrange, who, uh, excavated Newgrange in the 60s and the 70s, if you read exactly what he says, he says that many people, not just one or two, many people told him about the sun shining into the chamber of Newgrange.

[00:59:16] And you're left with this marvellous mystery. I think it's part of the wonderful mystery of Newgrange. You're left with this thing that you have to contemplate, that that knowledge has literally survived since.

[00:59:26] Gerry: Wow.

[00:59:27] Anthony Murphy: Not necessarily since the immediate time the monument was built, but since the time that it went into decay, which we think was at the end of the Neolithic, at the beginning of the Bronze Age.

[00:59:37] Sometime, if you were to put strict figures on it, you'd be talking, they say roughly five centuries after Newgrange was built. So it could be any time from about 2700 to about 2400 BC, is the era in which we think the tumble down happened and the monument got sealed up. Amazing stuff. And here are people in the 1960s saying to the archaeologists, do you know that the sun is said to shine in there once a year?

[01:00:00] And, and it's impossible until the roof box is fully restored in 1967. And O'Kelley became the first human since the Bronze Age to see the sun in the Chamber of New Grange.

[01:00:12] Gerry: Yeah, that's amazing. One, one last question for you, because again, um, It's just a fascinating, uh, kind of peek into your brain, uh, and I'm loving speaking about all this stuff, um, around the, uh, all my questions have popped out of my head.

[01:00:31] Anthony Murphy: know there's too much.

[01:00:33] Gerry: no, no. What was I going to say? Oh, what was it? I'm going to look at my notes here.

[01:00:38] Oh, yeah. So, a number of years ago, um, in 2018 or 2019, there was a pretty big drought in Ireland and around the surrounding areas, and I remember seeing you might have been on one of the newspapers around flying your drone around the back of Newgrange, and we could see the outline of what looks like Another, um, you know, settlement of some sort.

[01:01:04] Tell us what you know about that and has there been any further developments about excavation of that area? There was. There was

[01:01:12] Anthony Murphy: Tell us what you know about that. As the discoverer, I was the one who was

[01:01:18] Gerry: in there.

[01:01:20] Anthony Murphy: That was, um, Tuesday the 10th of July 2018. 8. 47 PM in the evening, very precisely. Yeah, I was flying my drone. Um, it had become apparent that there'd been a, uh, several, uh, well, actually a couple of months of drought.

[01:01:37] Uh, we hadn't had any rainfall in the Boyne Valley and, um, I started to see headlines in the British media the day before saying that there were sort of previously unknown monuments revealing themselves in the crops, in the crop marks, so I decided to fly over Brunabonia thinking. Just thinking that some of the known monuments that we'd see aspects of those that we hadn't seen before.

[01:01:59] I didn't expect to find any new, uh, new monuments, new undiscovered monuments, simply because Brunei Bonia is a very intensely studied landscape. It's archaeologists from all around the world have been studying it intensely for generations. So, um, yeah, I saw in a field But 700 meters from Newgrange, there was this circular impression in the crop, a very large circle, um, turns out it's about 150 meters in diameter, or to put that in, in, uh, feet, that's over 500 feet.

[01:02:33] Um, thought maybe for a moment that it was. I thought stupidly that maybe a circus tent had been pitched there or something, or I tried to sort of rationalize it in my head, maybe a tractor had driven around in a big circle, but when I got closer to it, I could see that it had features that couldn't possibly be related to any of those things, and I knew that I was looking at a crop mark, and knowing the landscape very well, as somebody who studied the archaeology of Brunibonia for the past 20 years.

[01:03:02] I, I knew there was no monument listed there, you know, uh, turns out myself and Ken Williams, who's another draw had a man who was with me. He also arrived and he had been flying his drone and I mentioned it to him. I shouted out, what the hell is that? And he had a look. Um, it turns out we had discovered a late Neolithic Henge.

[01:03:22] Uh, and a Henge is probably, probably a monument that, uh, involved sort of think of like a stadium.

[01:03:30] Gerry: yeah,

[01:03:30] Anthony Murphy: Think of a stadium where people are coming together to watch some sort of spectacle, you know, but just one of, I mean, we now know at Brunabonia, there are at least 10 hinges, if not 12. It's the highest concentration of that type of monument anywhere in the world.

[01:03:44] Gerry: yeah.

[01:03:45] Anthony Murphy: As a result of these discoveries, but that discovery went worldwide. I posted pictures that evening on mythical Ireland on the Facebook page. And by the next morning, they'd already gone viral. And the phone started ringing. Uh, the local media were ringing and then suddenly RTE wanted and for the next three weeks, it went all around the world.

[01:04:05] It was on all the American channels and it was in the Washington Post and the New York Times have copies of those newspapers. It was in all the European channels and then the Australians picked it up South Africa and all of a sudden then the Japanese, uh, were featuring it on their, uh, broadcasts. Um, so

[01:04:25] Gerry: that's

[01:04:25] Anthony Murphy: was an amazing time.

[01:04:27] That was. Uh, and all on a hunch, which was, if I go there with the drone, I might see something, you

[01:04:35] Gerry: the importance of experimentation, folks. You can see it in evidence here. Has anything like, has the OPW in Ireland, has there been any kind of plans to dig a little bit into that area?

[01:04:47] Anthony Murphy: Oh, and that's a question that everybody curiously wants to know about. Um, the simple answer is that it, it, the monument is on Newgrange Farm. Newgrange Farm. is first and foremost a farm. So, you know, they keep cattle and a lot of sheep, a very limited amount of cattle, and they sow crops. Uh, that field is currently under a crop of wheat as it was in 2018 when it was discovered.

[01:05:12] Uh, but now Newgrange Farm, which consists of a large part of the land in front of Newgrange, between Newgrange and the river, A very substantial amount of that land is, first of all, it's the town land of Newgrange, but secondly, it's part of Newgrange Farm. Well, uh, Newgrange Farm and I have started working together.

[01:05:30] Uh, we're doing these tours. We started them last summer, but we're doing them again this summer. Uh, where I basically tell people we go around on a specially modified tractor trailer. And we go around the landscape and show people the monuments and tell them the archaeological significance, but also some of the myths and legends of Newgrange.

[01:05:46] Gerry: nice.

[01:05:48] Anthony Murphy: There's been no digging precisely because it's on a private farm.

[01:05:51] Gerry: Yeah,

[01:05:52] Anthony Murphy: But that is the case for a huge amount of the Brunabonia monuments. Very little excavation has been done. And actually, broadly speaking, in the Irish landscape, probably 90 percent or so of excavations. And probably higher than that, maybe 95 percent of all monuments, recorded monuments in Ireland, are on farmland.

[01:06:13] Gerry: yeah. So, that brings its own challenges in regards to the preservation of these pieces or the exploration of them further. But at least we know they're there, that's the main thing.

[01:06:24] Anthony Murphy: well, without excavation, we guess that it belongs to that late Neolithic. So that would be just, in terms of timescale, that would be around 2, 500. Sorry, 2, 900 BC to about 2, 500 BC at that sort of period after the tombs have been built. Uh, but there's this new phase of activity in which we seem to be doing a lot more, shall we say, outdoor activity out in the open air in these large arena type monuments.

[01:06:50] What exactly was happening in there? We don't know, but I believe they're mentioned in mythology. They're called playing fields. Uh, literally a games plane is how you would translate that. Uh, so there was something I'd say spectacular. Think about Gladiator, uh, and sort of Croke Park of a Sunday afternoon.

[01:07:09] You know, Gaelic football with maybe a slightly violent edge. And I think we're probably close to what was happening in there, you know.

[01:07:16] Gerry: Well, we're from the same area. We all know how crazy the people are around where we're from. So who knows what it is. Could have been absolutely anything. It could be in some of the, you know, the old students from St. Joseph's or St. Mary's having a, having a football match. Who knows?

[01:07:31] Anthony Murphy: beating the heads off each other.

[01:07:35] Gerry: Anthony, I'm going to wrap up this. This has been Absolutely. I like the word illuminating at the moment, so I'm going to say that's what it was, but it's been brilliant to speak with you. Now, I know you're running tours, um, in the summer months and you've started them back up. I was hoping to go a couple of weeks ago and then I was like, it was a birthday party on for one of my kids, not my, my kids that I had to take them to, but I'm going to be there in the next couple of ones that you run for sure.

[01:08:01] Um, I'm really excited about connecting with Richard and just learning more about this space that you're in. Is there, Obviously your website, we'll put a link to that in the show notes, but is there a place where they can find out more about the upcoming tours?

[01:08:15] Anthony Murphy: Well, the principal place, of course, is on the tours page of the website. So if you go to mythicalireland. com and you go to tours, the next tour will always be advertised there. But also on the social media on Facebook, in particular, the Facebook page. Also on Facebook is the Mythical Ireland community. Uh, and on the Instagram and I do have a Twitter, but I don't have a huge following on X for some reason.

[01:08:40] Um, so generally on the, principally on the

[01:08:43] Gerry: Or Instagram.

[01:08:45] Anthony Murphy: but the website, yeah, I, because that's where the tickets are sold. So always on the website, first and foremost on the tours page.

[01:08:52] Gerry: Brilliant. I'll put a link to those in the show notes if you're listening on the podcast, or if you're watching on YouTube, it'll be in the description box. Anthony, listen up, thanks so much for your time, and hopefully we get to catch up for a coffee or something, I'm drawn to next.

[01:09:04] Anthony Murphy: brilliant. I look forward to it. Yeah. Carrying on the conversation. Thanks for having me along.

[01:09:09] Gerry: Absolutely.

John Carter
Tech Vlogger & YouTuber

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