Remains of 5,000-Year-Old Henge Monument Discovered in Ireland via Drone

Anthony Murphy deployed a camera-drone above a seemingly thoroughly-researched Irish historical site when he discovered remains of an ancient henge.

Anthony Murphy/Mythical Ireland

The archaeological landscape of Brú na Bóinne, a Unesco World Heritage Site 30 miles north of Dublin, Ireland, was thought to have been thoroughly researched and excavated. During an unprecedented 40-day drought last week, however, photographer Anthony Murphy discovered the remains of a 5,000-year-old monument when he deployed a camera-drone above the field, The New York Times reports

Murphy believed that this was undoubtedly the site of a henge, an enclosure formed by rocks or wood that ancients would use as gathering places. Together with a friend, he launched a drone and actually discovered evidence that such a structure had, indeed, been there in the past. “We knew fairly quickly that this was something that hadn’t been seen before, and I think we both knew it was something very special,” said Murphy in an interview with The Times

The drought was vital to visibly encounter signs of this structure. According to archaeologists, the soil beneath heavy objects holds more residual water. With a 40-day lack of rainfall, the discrepancy between untouched patches and those that previously had substantial objects placed atop was made glaringly apparent. 

Fortunately, the captured aerial footage is freely available to all, courtesy of Mythical Ireland and Anthony Murphy.

Chief archaeologist for Ireland’s National Monuments Service, Michael MacDonagh, described this discovery as a “once-in-a-lifetime” event that could “add greatly to our knowledge of this magical archaeological landscape.” The discovered pattern on the ground was 492 feet (150 meters) wide, which archaeologists estimate possibly held a few thousand people at a time. “There’s a whole generation of archaeologists who have never seen a site emerge with such clarity out of the ground like this,” added MacDonagh.

University of Dublin archaeology professor Stephen Davis claims there haven’t been any significant excavations in the area since the 1970s. If he’s right, that not only means that this historical discovery is that much more of a fascinating incident for those in the field, but that unmanned aerial vehicles have only just begun to significantly teach us about our long-forgotten past. For Murphy, himself, it still seems unbelievable that all it took to make this historic discovery was a camera-drone and a bit of luck. "I’ve been studying the landscape for 20 years and I never thought I’d make a discovery,” he said. “I thought the archaeologists had discovered everything there was to be revealed.”