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Book Chapter


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Published in Advancing Cultural Astronomy: Studies in Honour of Clive Ruggles, edited by Efrosyni Boutsikas, Stephen C. McCluskey and John Steele, 2021, Springer.

Reproduced with permission of Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2021. The final authenticated version is available online at:


The majority of Irish passage tombs (c. 230) predominantly date to the Middle Neolithic (c. 3600–3000 BC). A small number of summit cairns may also contain passage tombs because of their round form, proximity and intervisibility. The island’s passage tombs and related cairns share distinguishing characteristics – elevated siting, visibility and long-range views of distant horizons in varying directions of the compass. This chapter presents the findings of the first scenic analysis of the horizon and views at these sites recorded at an island scale. The method uses measured orientations of horizon sectors related to observed variation in horizon range. This shows that tomb location was likely selected with a preference for view of the distant horizon and, curiously, also in the northerly direction in many cases. This sector of the horizon lies beyond the extreme rising and setting limits of the sun and moon. It is also the region of circumpolar stars which never rise or set and are perpetual in a viewing sense. The hypothesis that the process of cremation released the spirit of the dead to travel to the abode of the ancestors in the north sky, a zone commonly associated with death and the afterlife by other later cultures, is explored.


2021_Bookmatter_AdvancingCulturalAstronomy.pdf (141 kB)
Book Front Matter

2021_Bookmatter_AdvancingCulturalAstronomy_Part II.pdf (103 kB)
Editorial comment on Part II