Mound of Hostages

By July 23, 2014 at 3:36 pm

The Mound of the Hostages is the Hill of Tara’s oldest and most iconic monument. This 6000 year old Passage Tomb stands testament not just to the spirituality of our ancestors, their worship and burial practices but also to their advanced and precise scientific knowledge of the heavens.

Twice each year the passage way is illuminated by the rising sun on the ancient feasts of Imbolc, heralding spring at the start of February, and Samhain, the feast of the ancestors at the beginning of November. This solar alignment is formed when the beam of light enters the chamber and strikes the back stone as the sun disk rises above the horizon on these cross quarter dates. In addition, roughly every 19 years the full moon also illuminates the back stone, the result of a complex lunar cycle known as the Saros Cycle, a phenomenon common to many of our ancient monuments of similar construct. The next one is due in 2021.

Summer Solstice 2014 at the Mound of Hostages © Kyrie Murray

Summer Solstice 2014 at the Mound of Hostages © Kyrie Murray


Much has been learnt about our ancestors at Tara through excavation of the Mound of the Hostages in the 1950’s. An exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland displays some of the findings which can be read about here.

Unfortunately, in reconstructing the Mound after the excavations, errors were made and as a result of this, rain water seeped in and began eroding the back sillstone over the decades since. TSPG called for this work to be done urgently after the erosion problem was made public at a Tara Symposium in UCD and two years before the work was finally undertaken in 2011.

 However, no formal notice of when the work would begin was given to stakeholders, nor were any suggestions invited. We now have a 6000 year old monument with a facade that looks like many an Irish 1970’s bungalow front, certainly not an authentic looking ancient monument as befits the Hill of Tara. TSPG believe that engaging with stakeholders is a vital part of ensuring quality upkeep and maintenance of the site in general.

(photograph of the Mound of Hostages is © John Wilmott)

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