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Mound of the Hostages
Hill of Tara, County Meath

[Wednesday - 11/13/02] The Mound of the Hostages is a megalithic passage tomb and is the oldest monument on the hill of Tara, dating to about 2,500BC. The name "Mound of the Hostages" derives from the custom of overkings like those at Tara retaining important personages from subject kingdoms to ensure their submission.

One of the legendary kings of Tara was named Niall of the Nine Hostages in recognition of the fact that he held hostages from all the provinces of Ireland and from Britain.

The Mound measures 70 feet in diameter and is only 9 feet high. During excavation some forty Middle Bronze Age burials (all but one cremated) were found. A pair of upright stones form the entrance to the passage-grave and the interior of the tomb is capped by two great stones resting on dry-stone walling built above the side stones of the chamber.

The passage at the Mound of the Hostages is short, and is aligned on the cross-quarter days of November 8 and February 4, the ancient Celtic festivals of Samhain and Imbolc. Just inside the entrance on the left is a large decorated orthostat.

As a solar construct it is not as accurate as other passages, which are notably longer, but according to Brennan (The Stones of Time, 1994) the daily changes in the position of a 13-foot long sunbeam are more than adequate to determine specific dates.

Back-up to Hill of Tara. Show the location of this site. Return to House Corvus site Main Menu. Return to Corvus '02 Tour menu. Proceed to St. Patrick's Church.

Last modified on Wednesday, November 26, 2008
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