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Holy Hills of Ireland

6 7 CreatioN of the saCred shaping the beyond Irelands early inhabitants frequently expressed their sense of awe in stone monuments. The simplest, though not the oldest, are standing stones, which a medieval poem said marked heroes graves. Other beliefs persist. One Ulster stone bears a harvest gods name, some have holes used in fertility or oath taking rituals, and others are petrified individuals. Many, chosen for their dramatic weathering, are strangely shaped or scored with grooves. The bronzeage Irish created hundreds of stone circles and typically buried their dead in stone cists, while their neolithic predecessors preferred megalithic structures including portal dolmens, court cairns and passage graves with inner womblike chambers, all created with impressively large stones, and covered by large cairns. Fires were often lit at their entrances, they usually contained ashes of the dead, and were sited on commanding positions. Left An unusual typical standing stone of the Neolithic period with a hole in it. From Orkney. Below New Grange, Br na Binne, one of the greatest megalithic sites, is roofed with flat stones and corbelling. Stone bowls which held human ashes stand in recesses, elaborate patterns are incised on particular stones and a roof box a window over the entrance is aligned to capture light from midwinter sunrise. Well worked bone pins or smoothed beads, ceremonial tools, stone balls and phalluses have all been found in these Stone Age monuments, the shrines, mausoleums and cathedrals of their day. Drombeg stone circle, Co. Cork
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