Mound of the Hostages
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The mound is a Neolithic structure, built between 3000 BCE and 2500. It is circular in form, roughly fifteen metres in diameter and three metres high. It is built in the same style as the Newgrange tomb, although on a smaller and less awe-inspiring scale. The structure is dome-shaped with an inset for the entrance and a small doorway, set almost one metre into the side of the monument. The doorway is framed with undecorated standing stones. As is common in passage tombs, this alignment allows for the rising sun to shine down the passageway at only two times of the year, illuminating the chamber within. At this mound, the passage is illuminated on the mornings of Samhain and Imbolc, at the beginning of November and February, respectively. Inside, the passage into the Mound of the Hostages stretches for four metres in length, one metre in width, and is 1.8 metres high. It contains decorated sillstones with images of swirls, circles, and x-patterns—designs associated with Mesolithic passage tomb art. Three compartments once housed buried remains.
The mound was used for burials from the early Neolithic up to 1600 - 1700 BCE. There are an estimated 250 - 500 bodies buried in the mound, organised into layers under the passage. The dead were most often cremated, and their ashes and grave goods spread on the floor of the tomb. These grave goods include decorative pottery and urns, stone beads, and bone pins. The remains were then covered with stone slabs. With this method, layers of ashes and stone built up over time and successive burials. More burials occurred at this site in the Bronze Age, and space in the passage eventually became unavailable, so the bodies were then placed in the mound itself. Over 40 remains have been removed from the mound. They had been buried in the Bronze Age style, with inverted cinerary urns placed over the cremation ashes. The full body of a Bronze Age adolescent was also discovered in the mound. The body was placed in a crouched position in a simple pit dug in the mound. Grave goods found with the body include a decorated bead necklace, a bronze knife, and a bronze awl—a suggestion that he was a person of some importance.
Unlike some similar structures, there is no evidence of a ditch dug around the mound. The Mound is situated north of the King's seat and Cormac's house (teach Cormaic) and slightly south of the Rath of the Synods. The top of the mound is the highest point on the hill, and offers unrivalled views of the surrounding countryside.
- Knowth.com photo of Samhain sunrise at the Mound of Hostages "The Stone Age Mound of the Hostages is also aligned with the Samhain sun rise." The sun rises from the same angle on Imbolc.