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Navan Fort

Navan Fort is a large circular earthwork atop a drumlin in County Armagh, Northern Ireland, close to the city of Armagh. The ditch on the west side is best preserved and there is 4m deep while the external embankment is about 15m wide and 4m high making an impressive monument. The ditch is inside the bank suggesting that this was not a defensive structure but ceremonial. There are the remains of two structures within the enclosure. There is an Iron Age burial site and a large mound which, following excavations in the 1960s, was found to be a unique structure built 2095 years ago, at about the same time as the enclosure.

This mound was the culmination in a period of building on the site and was originally a huge 40 metre diameter wooden structure which was filled with many thousand limestone boulders and then deliberately burnt and covered with soil and turves to leave the mound which is found there today.

The purpose of this mound is unknown but it has been suggested that it represents a 'mesocosm', something which lies between people and the sacred universe.

Navan Fort has been identified as Emain Macha (and from which the nearby city of Armagh derived its name). It is famous from early Irish literature such as the Tain Bó Cuailnge (the cattle raid of Cooley) which was collected from oral tradition by Medieval monks. Books such as Leabhar na h-Uidhri and the Yellow Book of Lecan contained many stories but the Tain Bó Cuailnge is the most epic and has been called Ireland's Iliad (see http://adminstaff.vassar.edu/sttaylor/Cooley/Faraday/Contents.html for an early translation). In it, and other recorded stories, Emain Macha was the military headquarters of the Red Branch knights, ruled by Conchobar mac Nessa. It was here that Cuchulainn, the Hound of Ulster, became a warrior.