The Rath of the Synods - Hill of Tara
Professor Seán Ó Ríordáin excavated the Rath of the Synods in 1952. The dig
revealed it to be a multi-purpose site with ritual, domestic and industrial uses
between AD100 and AD300. It is interesting to note that during that time a round
house on the site had been built and re-built many times. A banqueting hall
perhaps? We do not know. Evidence was found that these 'houses' were used for
both domestic and ritual purposes. The post-holes that were discovered indicate
a resemblance to the round, thatched reconstructions of similar finds at places
like Lough Gur in Co Clare.
Objects found at the site include a Roman lock and
pottery which may date to AD200. Ó Ríordáin came to the following conclusions
about his excavation work at the site: 'The dwellers at Tara were in touch with
the Roman world. The site was inhabited and evidences were available of ordinary
domestic and industrial activities - iron smelting and enamelling, for instance.
But there are special features which suggest a ritual purpose and most
remarkable are the re-buildings, each of which made the site larger and more
impressive and which may have coincided with special events in the history of
At least three Church Synods are said to have taken place here and are referred
to in a poem probably dating from the early eleventh century. There is no record
of when the first two meetings took place. But historians give a probable date
of AD697 for the Synod of Adamnán, when Irgalach was king of the area around
Tara. Prior to the erection of the church wall in the nineteenth century, the
rath clearly extended into what is now the churchyard, and included in the list
of monuments associated with this spot are a number that bore the name of St
Adamnán, who was a powerful ecclesiastical personage of the seventh century and
a biographer of St Columcille. The Tent of Adamnán, the Seat of Adamnán and the
Mound of Adamnán - all were associated with the Rath of the Synods and with
earthwork mounds that have been identified inside the cemetery area by aerial
photography. The last monument, the Cross of Adamnán, is thought by some to
refer to the tall standing stone on the left of the path through the
church-yard. This ancient stone has the figure of a small child carved on it,
and it could be the shaft of St Adamnán's 'cross'.
Extract from The Book of Tara by Michael Slavin.