The sacral landscape of Tara: a preliminary exploration
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Newman, C. (2011) The sacral landscape of Tara: a preliminary exploration, in Landscapes of Cult and Kingship, edited by Roseanne Schot, Conor Newman and Edel Bhreathnach, Four Courts Press, Dublin, 22-43.
In a preliminary exploration of the Tara landscape, this article examines features of the land between the twin hills of Tara and of Skreen, a broad valley through which flows the Gabhra river and now crudely divided by the new M3 motorway. It is argued that this was a sacralised landscape in which archaeology, toponomy and mythology were intimately associated with the rituals of sacral kingship. The Gabhra river (the river of the white mare) was probably perceived as a manifestation of the equine sovereignty goddess and was just one of the significant features of a landscape deeply imbued with religious meanings and symbolism. The range and significance of sites excavated in advance of the motorway simply proved this point at enormous cost. From the royal settlement at Lagore (Loch nGabor, the lake of the white mare) south of Tara, to Collierstown where an important cemetery was excavated, to a major settlement at Baronstown, to a wooden temple at Lismullin, these are just some of the sites of different periods that reflect the long process of memorialisation, continuity and renewal of tradition that made Tara and its landscape such a potent religious and political symbol through time. Proof copy of article.