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2014 Rhind Lecture 3: In pursuit of the Otherworld

Third lecture by Professor Professor John Waddell of the 2014 Rhind Lectures, entitled “Archaeology and Celtic Myth – an exploration”

Archaeology and Celtic Myth-an exploration

All lectures took place in the Royal Society of Edinburgh, 22-28 George Street, Edinburgh EH2 2PQ

The 2014 Rhind Lectures were sponsored by Rubicon Heritage Ltd which attracted an Arts and Business Scotland New Arts Sponsorship Grant.  The Rhind Lectures were also gratefully supported by The Consulate General of Ireland  and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Archaeologists working in Ireland occasionally face some quite unusual challenges. Those who have studied the archaeology of the celebrated Hill of Tara for instance have had to address not only the interpretative problems posed by a range of enigmatic earthworks but have also been confronted by a series of monuments and a landscape that bear an extraordinary weight of myth and legend.

The Lectures
These lectures are an exploration and their central premise is that elements of pre-Christian Celtic myth preserved in medieval Irish literature shed light on older traditions and beliefs not just in Ireland but elsewhere in Europe as well. This enquiry mainly focuses on aspects of the mythology associated with four well-known Irish archaeological landscapes: Newgrange and the Boyne Valley, and the royal sites of Rathcroghan in Co. Roscommon, Navan in Co. Armagh, and Tara in Co. Meath.

The Rhind Lecturer
John Waddell is Emeritus Professor of Archaeology in the National University of Ireland Galway. For over a decade and with the support of the Heritage Council, his research has focused on the royal site of Rathcroghan in western Ireland, a complex of archaeological monuments that figures prominently in early Irish literature. Recent publications include Foundation Myths. The beginnings of Irish archaeology (2005); Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon. Archaeological and geophysical survey in a ritual landscape (2009) and in 2010 a revised edition of The Prehistoric Archaeology of Ireland.

Lecture 3

Rathcroghan stands apart from other royal sites in possessing an entrance to the Otherworld. Its associated mythology provides some clues that suggest that archaeological indications of a prehistoric belief in an Otherworld are not as obscure or elusive as one might think.