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Tlachtga: The Birthplace of Halloween

Archaeologists from University College Dublin have completed the first excavations of a hilltop enclosure in Ireland reputed to be the birthplace of Halloween.

Using airborne laser surveys and geophysical techniques, before the excavation the archaeologists were able to identify that there are at least two forts on the site -- one measuring 150 metres in diameter which was partly built on top of another, ever larger, fort measuring almost 200 metres wide.

"The surveys clearly reveal that the site - Tlachtga, known locally as the Hill of Ward - has several different phases of monumental enclosures and we believe them to be associated with festivals and rituals potentially dating back as far as 1,000BC," says Dr Steve Davis from the UCD School of Archaeology, University College Dublin, Ireland.

"Given the size, this was almost certainly a key ritual site for many generations."

During the three week excavations the archaeologists uncovered the skeletal remains of a young 6-12 month old child, which may date back some 3,000 years, from the bedrock at the base of a 1.5m trench. The remains will undergo a full scientific analysis.

Samhain which was celebrated from sunset on 31st October to sunset on 1st November marked the end of the harvest season and the start of winter. It is believed that torches were lit from the sacred fire on the site on the Hill of Tlachtga and then carried to several other hills around the county including the Hill of Tara (which is about 12 miles away).

Funding for the excavation was provided by the Office of Public Works, Meath County Council, the Heritage Council and the Royal Irish Academy. It involved a team of six professional archaeologists and about 20 volunteers.

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