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Society of Antiquaries of Scotland

The Rhind Lectures 2014 Free and open to all – no ticket required

John Waddell Emeritus Professor, National University Ireland

Archaeology and Celtic Myth an exploration Society of Antiquaries of Scotland

The RHIND LECTURES, a series of six lectures delivered annually on a subject pertaining to history or archaeology, by eminent authorities on the subject, have been given since 1876. They commemorate Alexander Henry Rhind of Sibster who bequeathed money to the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland to endow the lectures which perpetuate his name.

Society of Antiquaries of Scotland c/o National Museums Scotland Chambers Street Edinburgh EH1 1JF

For further information please contact:

Scottish Charity No SC010440

Friday 25th April to Sunday 27th April 2014

Tel: 0131 247 4133 Fax: 0131 247 4163 Email: info@socantscot.org Web: www.socantscot.org

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All lectures take place in: Royal Society of Edinburgh 22–28 George Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2PQ


working in Ireland occasionally face some quite unusual challenges. Those who have studied the archaeology of the celebrated Hill of “Archaeologists Tara for instance have had to address not only the interpretative problems posed by a range of enigmatic earthworks but have also been confronted by a series of monuments and a landscape that bear an extraordinary weight of myth and legend.“ The Lectures

Saturday 26th April 2014

Glimpses of the past and pre-Christian Celtic myth are preserved in the medieval Irish literature. By examining these elements, we can shed light on older traditions and beliefs - not just in Ireland but elsewhere in Europe as well. These lectures will explore this past through the mythology associated with four familiar Irish archaeological landscapes: Newgrange and the Boyne Valley, and the royal sites of Rathcroghan in Co. Roscommon, Navan in Co. Armagh, and Tara in Co. Meath.

11.00am Lecture 2: The Otherworld Hall on the Boyne When M. J. O’Kelly published his account of his excavations at Newgrange, he wondered if the first seeds of the oral traditions behind its rich mythology were planted in the Neolithic. Two distinct but related themes are considered: the mythology associated with Newgrange and the Boyne Valley and its relationship with archaeology, and whether elements of a Neolithic cosmology could survive for thousands of years. 2.00pm Lecture 3: In pursuit of the Otherworld

The Rhind Lecturer John Waddell is Emeritus Professor of Archaeology in the National University of Ireland Galway. For over a decade and with the support of the Heritage Council, his research has focused on the royal site of Rathcroghan in western Ireland, a complex of archaeological monuments that figures prominently in early Irish literature. Recent publications include Foundation Myths: The beginnings of Irish archaeology (2005); Rathcroghan, Co. Roscommon: Archaeological and geophysical survey in a ritual landscape (2009) and in 2010 a revised edition of The Prehistoric Archaeology of Ireland.

Rathcroghan stands apart from other royal sites in possessing an entrance to the Otherworld. Its associated mythology provides some clues which suggest that archaeological indications of a prehistoric belief in an Otherworld are not as obscure or elusive as one might think. 3.30pm Lecture 4: The Horse Goddess The archaeology and mythology of Navan with its tutelary goddess Macha are just some of the indications that equine rites were a significant part of ancient kingship ceremonial.

Sunday 27th April 2014 Friday 25th April 2014

2.00pm Lecture 5: The Goddess of Sovereignty

6.00pm Lecture 1: Confronting Ancient Myth

The great Queen Maeve or Medb is indelibly associated with ancient Rathcroghan where she is probably best known as the protagonist in the famous cattle raid, the epic Táin Bó Cúailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). Originally a goddess, she had a counterpart in Tara and both these sovereignty figures are closely linked to rituals of sacral kingship, some of which may be detectable in the archaeological record.

Some of the challenges posed by any attempt to correlate archaeology and myth are addressed and the nature of the Irish literary evidence reviewed. The archaeology of celebrated complexes like the Boyne Valley and the relevant major royal sites is examined. Their mythological associations will allow us to pursue the archaeological implications of several mythic themes, namely sacral kingship, a sovereignty goddess, solar cosmology, and the perception of an Otherworld. – Followed by a Drinks Reception –

3.30pm Lecture 6: Sacral Kingship It has been suggested that all Indo-European peoples were at one time or another probably ruled by tribal kings and the institution of sacral kingship may once have been a widespread phenomenon. There is archaeological evidence to support this claim.


Rhind Lectures - 2014