Newgrange & Knowth

So, I’m back home after my short holiday in Ireland. We had a great time there, both in the countryside and in Dublin, with lovely hotels, fantastic food and probably better weather than the UK was having.

The main reason we picked the part of Ireland that we did was to see its Neolithic monuments, particularly the passage tombs at Newgrange and Knowth, beside the Boyne river. Both are fantastic sites, particularly the brief trip inside the mound at Newgrange, with its atmospheric lighting and beautiful stone carvings. Both tombs are older than Stonehenge, in a striking location, and very impressive – although I should point out that the white facade of Newgrange was reconstructed in the 1970s, and its interpretation is more than a bit divisive amongst archaeologists. Anyway, there’s more information at that link, for those who are interested (the photos are worth a look, for one thing, to make up for the dreariness of the weather in those we took!).

These two photos show Newgrange’s exterior, and demonstrate just how big it is (and there’s that white facade that may or may not have ever existed in the Neolithic – as I pointed out, and as is noted on Wikipedia, how would Neolithic technology have managed to hold so many small stones up so neatly, and at such a steep angle? At Knowth, where similar pieces of quartz were found, they’ve been instead interpreted as a pavement area in front of the entrance).

As I mentioned before, both sites are also home to some stunning rock carvings. This particular one – probably the most famous from the site – marks the entrance to the passage tomb itself at Newgrange.

As with many such Neolithic sites, both Newgrange and Knowth are fairly touristy, and it’s difficult to get a sense of what the atmosphere would have been like at them when they were constructed. Still, both are incredibly impressive and well worth a look if you’re in the vicinity.

Photos: Lindisfarne

Picking just a few photos out of the 350 or so that my partner and I took on holiday in Northumberland has been tricky, but here are the first two of my half dozen favourites, taken on Lindisfarne, or Holy Island.

The first monastery was built on Lindisfarne in AD635. The priory which remains today (in ruins, as you can see) was built in the 11th century and is believed to have been something of a ‘test’ for Durham Cathedral, which was built afterwards in the same style.


Also on the island is Lindisfarne Castle, which was an Elizabethan fort, later converted into a home and now open to the public. It’s perched up on a rocky hill, with absolutely stunning views across the island and the Northumbrian coastline.

I’ve got a couple more holiday photos to post (including puffins!), but these two give an excellent taste of the beautiful weather, scenery and history which Northumberland offers.

Still Alive… More or Less

I realised today that it’s almost two months since I last updated this blog. *slaps wrist* Luckily, I now finally have time to start posting again, so proper posts will be coming in the next few days. For now though, here’s a quick update.

My current novel project is very much turning out to be a winner. I’m aware that it’s going to need a significant amount of editing when I get to the end, but for now I’m just focussing on getting the first draft done. Here’s my progress:

As you can see, I’m doing reasonably well at the moment, hitting somewhere between 1000 and 1500 words a day. My plan is to reach the 80k by the end of September, but we’ll see how it goes.

Other than writing, I’ve been focussing on research and pulling together ideas for my dissertation, the plan for which will have to be complete sometime in October.  The topic? The Roman cult of Mithraism.

And then there are all the other little things I’ve been doing to amuse myself – playing copious amounts of Guild Wars, catching up on my reading and experimenting with some new recipes. After all, I am supposed to be on holiday.

History: The Death of a Vestal Virgin

Well here we are, at the final section introduction, with what I feel is an appropriately attention-grabbing title. The week is about to come full circle and we’ve arrived at history and archaeology.

So, the introductory bit – I’ll keep this short. The reason I’ve chosen to include this as one of my topics is the simple fact that my degree subject is Ancient History and Archaeology. I’m particularly interested in the ancient Romans (Roman religion will be my dissertation topic next year, focusing on either the imperial cult or Mithraism) but am also quite partial to a bit of British prehistory.

Incidentally, it’s these two subjects which I’ve been revising today, as exams loom closer: the status of the Vestal Virgins in ancient Rome and the settlement patterns of Iron Age Britain. The latter doesn’t have much in the way of juicy details, but did you know that the punishment for a Vestal Virgin losing their virginity was to be buried alive? Not only that, but the authorities buried the offending Vestal in a furnished room, complete with small quantities of food, to maintain the illusion that they weren’t really executing the woman.

There you go – my historical nugget for the day. When I’ve got the energy, I’ll try to make these historical pieces a bit longer and more detailed, but for now, that’s your lot.