Few places do ancient mysticism like Meath’s Boyne Valley. Newgrange is a Neolithic treasure doubling as an organic lightshow and a place of pagan sun worship. The UFO-shaped ring forts in Knowth and Dowth look like the answer to “Are we alone in the universe?” And we haven’t even mentioned the tingle from touching the Lia Fáil stone, site of so many royal crownings.
You’d almost expect Indiana Jones to pop over the hill searching for the Ark of the Covenant.
Sounds unlikely? Stranger things have happened.
Torah & Tara
It’s 1899 in London. A group of academics with the Anglo Israel Association are on the hunt for the most spectacular find in modern religious history. Having traced Anglo-Saxon bloodlines to the tribes of Israel, they continue their research. Their next point of interest is the whereabouts of the Ark of the Covenant, a chest containing the tablet inscribed with the Ten Commandments decreed to Moses by God.
If their information is correct, Irish folklore and history indicate that Ireland’s Hill of Tara (linguistic connections between the ‘Torah’ and ‘Tara’ fuelled this line of thinking) was the last place the ark was seen.
And so in the year 1899, this group of intrepid and energized archaeologists and academics, lead by a judge named Edward Wheeler Bird, began their search for the Judeo-Christian holy of holies on a grassy Meath hill.
Their timing could not have been worse. Wheeler Bird and Co’s quest to locate the Ark coincides with a period of Irish history known as ‘The Cultural Revival’.
What was the Cultural Revival? Think of it as a period of renewed vigor and interest in heritage sites. For large groups of Irish, all those places that told us who we were and where we were from became utterly essential. They had been overlooked for too long.
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In this newly invigorated Ireland, with a population more attuned to its history and heritage, it’s safe to say that the three-year excavation was not warmly welcomed. The archeologists faced the objections of the Royal Society of Antiquities of Ireland, poet W.B Yeats and revolutionary Maud Gonne to name a few.
Eventually, due to concerted protests and upheld grievances, the hunters of the Ark returned home with no Ark and no answers.
Really, though, finding the Ark would just be gilding the lily of Meath’s already extraordinary heritage.
Plonk Indiana Jones in the county, for example, and he’ll find the aforementioned Newgrange: a stone age passage tomb older than the pyramids.
Next he’d stumble across Loughcrew Cairns – aka the Hills of the Witch – or find himself in the shadow of Trim Castle, a Norman pile used by Mel Gibson in Braveheart.
Perhaps, though, the professor would be more excited by the Battle of the Boyne site where King James and King William bloodily pitted Briton against Briton in 1690.
But since Mr Jones remains only an on screen icon, we’ll never know what mischief he’d get up to in Meath.
You, on the other hand…