Tuesday 26 September 2017


Last night RTE (Irish national tv station) broadcasted the following report in their main evening news:

A hillwalker in west Kerry has made a stunning discovery which connects a 4,500-year-old tomb with the equinoxes.

The megalithic tomb, known as the Giant’s Grave, is situated in the valley of Loch an Dúin on the eastern side of the Conor Pass.

Ancient rock art can be found within the tomb, including a cup and ring near the head of the tomb.

For the past 14 years Daithí Ó Conaill, a retired school principal, has visited the site during the winter and summer solstice hoping to make a connection between the tomb and the sun. He has now discovered that the wedge tomb is actually aligned to the setting sun of the equinox, which last occurred on Friday 22 September.

As the sun sets directly into a 'V' shaped valley in the distant Brandon mountain range, a shaft of light enters the wedge tomb, illuminating the chamber and the rock art at the head of the tomb.

The event can be witnessed at sunset for a number of days either side of the equinox.

Archaeologist Míchéal Ó Coiléain who has carried out extensive surveys in Loch an Dúin said it was a stunning discovery, providing a fine example of the engineering brilliance demonstrated by the people who constructed it.

"Daithí's discovery is wonderful and it goes to show that people living 4500 years ago are aware of movements of the sun."

What is interesting is that no one seems to be realizing just how important this discovery is and why. Sure, the fact that this megalithic tomb is aligned to the equinoxes is amazing. It shows that people who built it knew how to determine where the "true east" is, which is not easy at all. One of the way to do this is to determine where the sun rises on summer and winter solstice and to then find the point right between these two points.

I explained the required procedure for determining the solstice points in my posts "Calendar" and "Boaz and Jachin".

Now what is truly amazing is the symbol that the builders of this ancient structure chose to mark the spot that is illuminated on the days of equinoxes.

This is the symbol found all over the world and in Egypt it was the symbol of the sun, Ra. This symbol is usually interpreted to mean sun disc, but I believe that it actually means sun circle, sun cycle, solar year.

This symbol is also found on hundreds of megaliths all over Ireland and Britain

But so far no meaning has been attached to it...Is it possible that the meaning of this symbol is sun, solar year?

During the solar year, the sun is born on winter solstice morning, it becomes young during spring, mature during summer, old during autumn and finally dies on winter solstice eve. The sun's life cycle looks very much like a human life cycle. With one big difference: the sun that dies on winter solstice eve gets reborn on winter solstice morning. 

So is it possible that the above symbol, the sun circle with no beginning and no end, could also represent endless cycle of birth, life, death and rebirth?

And if so, is it possible that the full meaning of the cup and ring symbol is sun, solar cycle, cycle of life, rebirth? 

Now the people who built this megalithic tomb and oriented it towards the east, towards the house of the sun god, must have been sun worshipers. Using the symbol of the sun to mark the spot illuminated by the sun inside the tomb is then not surprising. But is it possible that another reason why the megalith builders put this symbol at the end of the tomb chamber is to indicate their belief in rebirth? 

And if so, is it possible that Bronze Age people who engraved these symbols into stones all over Ireland and Britain did this as part of funeral ceremonies which were part of a solar cult which incorporated belief in rebirth?

We will never know for sure, but...


  1. If, on the bottom picture, the rock was facing East or West, and a stick was placed in front of it at the appropriate distance, the middle circle set being in shadow would indicate the equinoxes, and the outer ones would be the solstices. The circles themselves could be a graduation to tell the days more closely.

    Regarding true East, in 'The Dawn of Astronomy' J. Norman Lockyer proposed a relatively simple approximation technique that is very easy to do with your gnomon pole and threshing floor. As long as the threshing floor was in a 'high place,' unobstructed on the East and West, and the surrounding area was relatively flat, East/West can be very closely approximated by placing a stick in line with the morning sunrise, and another with the evening sunset. Those two sticks, by themselves, will indicate the East/West orientation. This can be done on any day of the year. It isn't a 100% technique, but will be close.

    1. Hi David. The thing is that this technique would only tell us where sun rises and sets, not true east and west. There is a huge difference between the two. The only way to relatively precisely determine east is to determine sunrise points for solstices and find the middle.

  2. You are incorrect. Lockyer's technique is an approximation, but it is a close approximation, assuming the observation point is not surrounded by higher hills.

    Say that on a certain day the sun rises 3° North of East. That night, due to the geometry and trigonometry involved, it will set very close to 3° North of West. The two sticks marking those points (and NOT the gnomon) will define a line that is very close to East/West.

    Using a planetarium program, I have verified this for a couple of days. The line was within about 0.3° of East/West. If you need to see more detail, let me know.

    1. O I misunderstood you. I will have a look at this, it is quite interesting.

    2. The entire book is interesting. It is at https://archive.org/details/dawnofastronomys00lockuoft, if you can't get hold of a physical copy. I recommend it - very worthwhile, in addition to your own work.

      It would probably have been most natural for our ancestors to have taken the first and last light conditions for their observation points, which would have been less accurate then the method I used of taking the sun at half-rise/set. But as I said, it is only an approximation, because the tilt of the earth with respect to the sun changes a little bit each moment, due to its revolution about the sun. And the sun's position is offset a bit due to the refraction of its rays in the sunrise and sunset atmosphere.

      Also be aware that Lockyer was unaware of that technique being used (if I remember correctly), nor has anyone else heard of its use, to my knowledge. If you come across any references, now that you know what you are looking for, it would be quite a find.

  3. The connection between sun, year cicle, moving wheel, deth and rebirth is familiar for all the indo-european cultures. In Ukrainian folk tradition there is a Koliada festival, which is celebrated before orthodox Christmas on 25 of December, and now is incorporated into chritsmas celebrations. "Kolo" in Ukrainian is a circle. And "kolovo" is a ritual food, which is used in exequies. Also near the volk traditions connected with fertility and frutful ness for the next year during Christmas hollydays there are a number of traditions of remembering and propitiating of anchestors (ded relatives, parents). One of them is invating of forfathers to join the festival meal. The ded are supposed to eat special food the same like "kolovo" but called "kutia".