The Hill of Tara is a prehistoric burial site and a very important landscape in the history and imagination of the Irish people. The oldest monument on the hill, the Mound of the Hostages, was built in the Neolithic period and was later reused as a bronze age cemetery. Large ritual monuments were constructed in the Iron Age.
In the medieval period Tara was an important site politically because of it association with Kingship. In later centuries, it was the site of hosting battles and assemblies. To cultural nationalists in the nineteenth century, Tara was the capital of an independent Ireland abd was described by W.B, Yeats as ‘the most consecrated place in Ireland’.
When the foundation of the Discovery Programme was announced in 1991, the Hill of Tara was identified as one of the sites that would be the focus on its research. That research began in earnest in 1992 and it has continued through three phases of fieldwork and much documentary and archival research to the present day.
The Tara Research Project is now in its third phase. The primary focus, of this phase, has been on analysis and collation of the results of the large-scale geophysical and remote sensing surveys conducted at Tara and in its environs from 2002–2014, as well as more recent field investigations undertaken in 2016 and 2017.
The Tara Research Project is now in its third phase. The primary focus, of this phase, has been on analysis and collation of the results of the large-scale geophysical and remote sensing surveys conducted at Tara and in its environs from 2002–2014, as well as more recent field investigations undertaken in 2016 and 2017. The 2016 fieldwork campaign was run in collaboration with the Römisch-Germanische Kommission, Frankfurt, and involved the first ever geophysical surveys at the Hill of Skreen and the Riverstown linear earthwork, near Tara. Further survey was also undertaken at Faughan Hill, about 15km northwest of Tara, where previous geophysical investigations by The Discovery Programme’s Late Iron Age and ‘Roman’ Ireland (LIARI) Project revealed the remains of a major archaeological complex comprising a series of large hilltop enclosures, burial monuments and other features. Prompted by these remarkable discoveries and their potential to shed light on the relationship between Tara and other hilltop sites in the region, test excavations were carried out at Faughan Hill in September 2017. A dedicated monograph on the Tara Project is currently in preparation.
The application of innovative technologies continues to play a central role in advancing the core objectives of the project. Building on The Discovery Programme’s ongoing collaboration with NUI Galway – which provided the foundation for a series of large-scale geophysical surveys at Tara from 2002–2010 – the establishment of a research partnership with the Römisch-Germanische Kommission (Deutsches Archäologisches Institut) has brought a welcome expansion of the project team as well as increased surveying capabilities, using the latest multichannel magnetometer systems.
This paved the way for a new campaign of geophysical investigations at Tara in 2014, and at a range of other sites in June 2016, including the nearby Hill of Skreen and Riverstown linear earthwork.