The famous Navan Fort is a circular earthwork near the city of Armagh in Northern Ireland. Mythologically, it’s said to seat the Kings of Ulster, a grouping of both legendary and historical kings who had domain over the Irish provincial over-kingdom of Ulaid. It dates all the way back to 1000 BC and was a major structure in pre-Christian Ireland, but now, it’s almost easy to overlook. The site itself is very simple and consists of a few circular shapes in the earth inside of one, larger structure.
A non-invasive, subterranean scan of the area, however, is revealing much more to this seemingly simple scene. Archaeologists believe that there may be an enormous complex hidden underneath the soil of the Navan Fort.
We’ve known that this site has been very special for quite some time; back in the 1960s and 1990s, an excavation effort revealed a number of buildings from the early Iron Age underneath the ground, including something called the “40-meter structure,” a well-preserved building that was built with timber and then burned to the ground the same year. Despite these artifacts, we’ve never known if this was a residential or religious space.
The recent scans are now suggesting that this underground complex may be massively larger than we thought. We’re now seeing a series of structures around 460 feet (140 m) in diameter that are shaped in a figure-eight sort of form, which some believe suggests that they may have served a religious purpose after all.
It’s hard to tell what’s left of these structures and what can be recovered through excavation, but this remains a notable discovery nonetheless. For now, the structure will likely remain underground until the project is funded.
“The work has shone new light on the monument, and will inform further research as we explore what Navan Fort meant to our forebears and how they used the site, for years to come. It provides additional insights that inform visits to this enigmatic monument and landscape today.”John O’Keefe, principle inspector of Northern Ireland’s historic monuments