On our voyage, we will encounter a wide variety of “sacred” spaces that are religious, commemorative, and funereal in nature: cathedrals in Europe and Brazil, mosques in Spain and Morocco, mass graves in St. Petersburg and Normandy, slave castles in Senegal and Ghana. Such revered spaces have shaped religious identity, bolstered national unity, and fostered personal and historical reflection.
Field WorkCountry: Ireland
Day: 4 - Saturday, 27 September
From Dublin, we will take a half hour drive to Newgrange, a large Neolithic circular mound covering about one acre, with a stone passageway and tomb chambers inside. It was built c. 3200 BCE, making it older than Stonehenge in England and the Great Pyramids in Egypt. Knowth and Dowth, which are nearby, are similar mounds, though smaller in scale. All three have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Newgrange was a passage tomb as well as place of astrological, religious, funerary and ceremonial importance. Famously, during the winter solstice, the sun’s rays illuminate the passage and inner chamber. During the Middle Ages, the abandoned site became linked to local folklore and Irish mythology. The mound was rediscovered in 1699. From there, we will travel to the Hill of Tara, nearby. The Hill of Tara is a grassy, hilly, landscape that has played a central role in the history, legend and folklore of Ireland for thousands of years. In ancient Irish mythology, the Hill of Tara was the sacred dwelling of the gods, as well as the entrance to the underworld. Its oldest monument (The Mound of Hostages) dates to Neolithic times (c. 2500 BCE). In the Iron age (c. 1st-5th centuries CE), the Hill of Tara was the ceremonial center of the Celtic high kings of Ireland, serving as their coronation site and ancient seat of power. Roman artifacts from the 1st to 3rd centuries CE have also been found here. St. Patrick is said to have come to the Hill of Tara in 433 CE to confront the ancient pagans. Celtic kings apparently abandoned the site in the 6th century. In more recent times, the Hill of Tara has been the site of important events in Irish history, including the battle between Irish rebels and British troops during the 1798 Irish revolution, (and where 400 Irish lost their lives), as well as the 1843 demonstration where close to one million people protested Ireland’s union with Britain. Academic Objectives: 1. The study of a Neolithic site and its changing religious importance in history. 2. The intersection of the secular and the divine, as well as history and myth. 3. How commemorative sites have been preserved and interpreted in history