Navan Fort Description
Navan Fort is a hilltop enclosure and ritual site at
Navan, County Armagh, Ireland. Navan Fort is also known by its ancient Irish
name, Emain Macha. It was constructed around 95 BC, and
it is recorded in the Ulster Cycle and other Irish legends as the capital of the northern Irish
province of Ulster.
Navan Fort is recognized archaeologically as one of a
group of Irish ‘royal sites’, including Tara and Dun Ailinne, whose most unusual architectural
feature is an enclosure bank placed outside a ditch, in contrast to the normal defensive
arrangement of bank within a ditch. The site was excavated by Dudley Waterman between 1963 and
Evidence was recovered of Neolithic occupation, and one of two
earthworks in the enclosure, known as Site A, was used in both the Bronze Age and the early
The second, more substantial mound comprising Site B measured 45 m in
diameter, standing 5–6 m high; this was the focus of the most interesting activity on the hill.
A Bronze Age settlement under this mound, dating to c. 700 BC, comprised an enclosure
containing a circular house and an outer stockade. The house was rebuilt several times on the
same spot, and it produced an amount of important Bronze Age and Iron Age material, including
such high-status objects as part of a scabbard.
The most extraordinary find was the skull of a Barbary ape, which must
have come from Spain or North Africa and might well have been seen as a suitable gift for a
king. Around 100 BC the house was dismantled and replaced by an enormous circular structure 40
m across and composed of 5 concentric rings of wooden posts.
At the centre, a massive post, shown by dendrochronological analysis
to have been felled in 95 or 94 BC and measuring perhaps 12 m high, was the focus of a
passageway between the timbers. The structure may have been roofed, but it is unlikely to have
been residential in nature.
Not long after its construction the building was filled in with stone,
the protruding timbers destroyed by fire and the whole mound covered with several metres of
earth and turves. This action appears to have been the deliberate ending of a ritual site
rather than the result of attack.
The immediate surroundings of the site are strongly associated with
power and ritual; they include the ritual pool at King’s Stables and four decorated trumpets
found below a hill at Loughnashade. The great earthwork known as the Dorsey, 27 km south of
Navan Fort, was constructed at the same time as the central post and may mark
the territorial boundary of Ulster.
Navan Fort Photos
Photos © Hembo Pagi
- Click on the images to enlarge
Navan Fort Map&Location
Navan Centre and Fort Address: 81
Killylea Rd, Armagh, County Armagh BT60 4LD, United Kingdom. Get help with