Hill of Tara

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The Hill of Tara (aerial view)

The Hill of Tara (Irish Teamhair na Rí, "Hill of the Kings"), located near the River Boyne, is a long, low limestone ridge that runs between Navan and Dunshaughlin in County Meath, Leinster, Ireland. It contains a number of ancient monuments, and is reputed to have been the seat of the Árd Rí Éireann or High King of Ireland.


[edit] Ancient monuments

Image:Tara stone.jpg
The Hill of Tara - the standing stone

At the summit of the hill, to the north of the ridge, is a circular Iron Age hill fort, almost 1000 metres in circumference, known as Ráith na Rig (the Fort of the Kings, also known as the Royal Enclosure). The most prominent earthworks within are the two linked ringforts known as Teach Chormaic (Cormac's House) and the Forradh or Royal Seat. In the middle of the Forradh is a standing stone, which is believed to be the Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) at which the High Kings were crowned. According to legend, the stone would scream if a series of challenges were met by the would-be king. at his touch the stone would let out a screech that could be heard all over Ireland. To the north of the ringforts is a small neolithic passage tomb known as Dumha na nGiall (the Mound of the Hostages), which dates to ca. 2000 BC.

To the north, just outside the bounds of the Ráith na Rig, is a ringfort with three banks known as Ráith na Seanadh (the Rath of the Synods). Excavations of this monument have produced Roman artefacts dating from the 1st-3rd centuries. Further north is a long, narrow rectangular feature known as the Banqueting Hall, although it is more likely to have been a ceremonial avenue approaching the site, and two circular earthworks known as the Sloping Trenches and Gráinne's Fort.

To the south of the Royal Enclosure lies a ringfort known as Ráith Laoghaire (Laoghaire's Fort), where the eponymous king is said to have been buried in an upright position. Half a mile south of the Hill of Tara is another hill fort known as Rath Maeve, the fort of either the legendary queen Medb, who is more usually associated with Connacht, or the less well known legendary figure of Medb Lethderg, who is associated with Tara.

[edit] Tara's significance

For many centuries, historians worked to uncover Tara's mysteries, and suggested that from the Celtic invasion until the 1169 invasion of Richard de Clare, the Hill of Tara was the island's political and spiritual capital. Due to the history and archaeology of Ireland being not well-integrated, archaeologists involved in recent research suggest that the complete story of the Hill of Tara remains untold.

The most familiar role played by the Hill of Tara in Irish history is as the seat of the kings of Ireland until the 6th century. This role extended until the 12th century, albeit without its earlier splendor. Regardless, the significance of the Hill of Tara predates Celtic times, although it has not been shown that Tara was continuously important from the Neolithic to the 12th century.

Previous scholarly dispute over Tara's initial importance advanced as archaeologists identified pre-Celtic monuments and buildings dating back to the Neolithic period around 5,000 years ago. One of these structures, the Mound of the Hostages, has a short passage which is aligned with sunset on the true astronomical cross-quarter days of November 8 and February 4, the ancient Celtic festivals of Samhain and Imbolc. (Most modern neopagans now celebrate these festivals a few days earlier on October 31 and February 1, respectively.) The mound's passage is also too short to be as accurate as the others in providing alignments with the Sun; still, Martin Brennan, in The Stones of Time, states that the daily changes in the position of a 13-foot (4-m) long sunbeam are more than adequate to determine specific dates.

A theory that may predate the Hill of Tara's splendor before Celtic times is the legendary story naming the Hill of Tara as the capital of the Tuatha Dé Danann, pre-Celtic dwellers of Ireland. When the Celts established a seat in the hill, the hill became the place from which the kings of Meath ruled Ireland with godly status. Atop the hill stands a stone pillar that was the Irish Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) on which the High Kings of Ireland were crowned; legends suggest that the stone was required to roar three times if the chosen one was a true king (compare with the Scottish Lia Fail). Both the Hill of Tara as a hill and as a capital seems to have political and religious influence, which diminished since St. Patrick's time. A grave was found near the hill that is supposedly that of King Lóegaire, who was said to be the last pagan king of Ireland.

During the rebellion of 1798, United Irishmen formed a camp on the hill but were attacked and defeated by British troops on 26 May 1798 and the Lia Fáil was moved to mark the graves of the 400 rebels who died on the hill that day. In the 19th century, the Irish Member of Parliament Daniel O'Connell hosted a peaceful Home Rule political demonstration on Hill of Tara which drew 1 million people, which indicates the enduring importance of the Hill of Tara.

During the turn of the 20th century the site was excavated by British Israelists who thought that the Irish were part of the Lost Tribe of Israel and the hill somehow contained the Ark of the Covenant.

[edit] Proposed motorway development

The proposed M3 motorway will pass through the Tara-Skryne Valley, at its closest coming within 1.2 km (0.75 miles) of the Hill of Tara. This development is intensely controversial and looks set to go ahead despite protests.

A legal action taken by environmental lawyer Vincent Salafia to try to stop the work failed in the High Court. The decision is now under appeal.

[edit] Tara in Fiction

The Hill of Tara is used in the Artemis Fowl series (written by Eoin Colfer, also Irish) as a surveilliance point and travelling point by the Fairies of the Lower Elements.

Tara is the name of the O'Hara family plantation in the novel and film "Gone With the Wind."

And also used in the album "Tara" by US black metal band Absu

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Ancient monuments

[edit] Proposed motorway development

es:Colina de Tara fr:Tara it:Collina di Tara nl:Tara (Ierland) ja:タラの丘 pl:Tara (Irlandia) ru:Тара (Ирландия)

Hill of Tara

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