Navan Fort, Armagh, County Armagh
Navan Fort or ‘Emain Macha’ is located a couple of miles outside the Cathedral City of Armagh. It is one of Ireland’s most important ancient monuments. According to mythology, this was one of the great royal sites of pre-Christian Ireland and the capital of the Red Branch of the Ulaidh (the famous warriors who gave their name to the province of Ulster). It is also named ‘Emain Macha’ which translates to mean ‘Macha’s twins’ named after the children of the goddess Macha who reputedly founded Navan Fort. Archaeological excavations have revealed that the construction of the 40 metre mound (that can be seen in the photo) dates to 95 BC and underneath an enormous roundhouse-like structure was built around a giant central oak. Its entrance oddly faced west (prehistoric houses invariably faced east, towards the sunrise). The floor of the building was covered with stones arranged in radial segments, and the whole edifice was deliberately burnt down before being covered in a mound of earth and turf. There is archaeological evidence for similar ‘repeated building and burning’ have also been found at Tara in County Meath and Dún Ailinne in county Kildare. One of the most unusual discoveries was the skull of a Barbary Macaque which suggests an international connection to Europe and Africa by the ruling families who governed here.