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Prehistoric Irish Monuments Revealed with Lidar

satellite image of prehistoric Irish monuments

Lasers have revealed hundreds of previously undetected prehistoric Irish monuments, including five rare ones, clustered in a swath of farmland in the Irish countryside.

From an article in Live Science by Jennifer Nalewicki.

Archaeologists discovered the monuments in Baltinglass, a town in County Wicklow in eastern Ireland, using lidar (light detection and ranging), a technique in which an aircraft flies overhead while a machine shoots laser pulses toward the ground. These pulses hit objects and then bounce back, helping researchers map the landscape’s topography.

The area examined by the researchers was occupied during the Early Neolithic (beginning around 3700 B.C.) and the Middle to Late Bronze Age (1400 to 800 B.C.). However, evidence of occupation during a 2,000-year stretch between the two periods, known as the Middle Neolithic, has been scarce — until now, according to a study published Thursday (April 25) in the journal Antiquity.

Despite years of agricultural plowing that had damaged some of the monuments, lidar revealed three-dimensional models of the landscape peppered with structures, including several “rare” cursus monuments, which are long, narrow, large-scale earthwork enclosures that may have had a ritual purpose. The grouping is considered the largest cursus cluster in both Ireland and Britain, according to a statement.

“I began working on this area about 10 years ago as part of my PhD and originally the idea was that this was the place in Ireland with the biggest and largest Bronze Age hillfort monuments in the country,” study author James O’Driscoll, an archaeologist at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, told Live Science. “After various surveys, we slowly started to realize that it wasn’t just Bronze Age but there were also a lot of Neolithic monuments there. Around 2014, a local identified one of these cursus monuments, and that’s all we knew prior to the lidar survey.”

For the complete article on prehistoric Irish monuments CLICK HERE.

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