oldest visible building at Tara is a small chambered cairn on the summit
of the hill which is known as the Mound of the Hostages. The name
comes from some of the many mythological stories associated with the monument.
The mound is a chambered cairn or passage-grave and was built during the mid-neolithic around 3500
BC, with continual re-use throughout the Bronze age which followed the stone age farming era.
While the Mound of the Hostages remained unopened it was the subject of many fantastic and mythological stories, and was considered to be a major sidhe or entrance into the Otherworld. The monunebt was excavated by both Seán P. Ó Ríordáin beginning in 1952 and completed by Ruaidhrí de Valera in 1959, following Ó Ríordáin's sudden death.
The passage within the Mound of the Hostages is four meters long and is oriented to the southeast, to
the sunrises on Samhain and Imbolc, the November and Feburary cross-quarter days. The same alignment is found at Listoghil, the central monument at Carrowmore in County Sligo and a number of monuments at Loughcrew.
The chamber at Tara is divided into three compartments by two sill stones; the floor was paved
with large flat flagstones. There is one decorated stone, a large flat slab on the left side
of the chamber.
The mound was excavated by Sean P. O'Riordan between 1955 and 1959; what you
see today is the restored mound after the excavation. O'Riordan found evidence
of an earlier structure under the mound. There is a stone cairn covered by a
clay mantle. The Mound of the Hostages is three meters high, 21 meters
in diameter and is one of the few known sites of this kind with no evidence of kerbstones.
The mound produced the largest collection of burials and associated artifacts
from any Irish neolithic site. These finds included a 30 cm thick layer
of cremated bones and a whole range of pendants, antler pins, pottery
shards, stone balls and a minature Carrowkeel-ware pot.
Use for burial
continued throughout the Bronze age, when nearly 40 cremated burials were
placed in the clay mantle of the mound. There was one inhumation, the
body of a 14 year old boy, which was placed under a burial urn. Finds
with this burial included fiaence beads which came from the eastern Mediterranean.
Lia Fáil, or Stone of Destiny, which now stands at the centre of
a fort called the Forrad, originaly stood outside the entrance to the
Mound of the Hostages. The Stone was moved to its present location at the centre
of the Forraid in 1824 to commemorate the Battle of Tara which took place in 1798. The Stone marks the mass-grave of four hundred United Irishmen put to death here.
is a granite pillar, 1.5 meters tall, and is said to be one of the four
treasures brought to Ireland by the Tuatha De Danann. Its
fame rests in its power to recognise the legitimaite king: it would emit
a mighty roar when the true king stood upon it, though some say it lost
this power when Christ was born. The stone is extremely phallic in shape,
so no wonder that that its Irish name is Bodh Fergus, Fergus' Penis. Fergus
was Fergus Mac Roi, a champion of Ulster, one of Cuchullain's teachers
and a lover of Queen Maeve.
It has been suggested that the Stone of Scone was the
Ulster coronation stone, and that there was one for each provence; indeed,
each local tribal area would have had its own inauguration stone.
O'Riordain had a section dug across the bank and ditch in 1953,
and found that the ditch was 3.5 meters deep and cut from bedrock!