Hell Fire Club, Dublin (CC by SA 3.0 / Joe King). Inset: The newly discovered megalithic stone with symbol.

Ancient Passage Tomb Discovered Beneath “Haunted” Hellfire Club of Dublin

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Sitting almost exposed in the hollow of the curious hill behind the Hellfire Club in Dublin, a dark chunk of blazing rock served as a convenient border to many bonfires over the centuries.  Ironically, the people who probably enjoyed the warmth of the fire while lying up against the comfortably curved bank of the mound probably never understood the significance of the mound they rested upon.  After thousands of years going unnoticed, the archaeologists who carried out the first-ever excavation of a passage tomb site at the notorious Hellfire Club in Dublin, eventually announced that the mound that offered rest to many people throughout the centuries, was the remains of an ancient tomb, and that ordinary looking dark stone was carved with symbols and designs that are over 5,000 years old.

The “Haunted” Mysteries of the Hellfire Club

The mystery surrounding the location takes us a few centuries back, way before the team of archaeologists excavated the site to learn more about the prehistoric pagan tombs which line the foundations of the house. Throughout its nearly three-century long existence, the home has been the subject of many hauntings and other speculated supernatural events. The old hunting lodge on Montpelier Hill was built for Irish Parliamentary Speaker William Connolly in 1725. Connolly’s workmen used stones from the old passage tombs underneath the structure to build the lodge – marking the beginning of the site’s association with the supernatural. According to local legend, Satan was not happy with the desecration and blew the lodge’s roof off in a rage. Following the roof collapse, the lodge on Montpelier Hill became known by locals as a “place of evil”. Soon after the death of Connolly the place was taken over by a group of young aristocrats who held drunken orgies there, as well as, it is said, practicing the Occult and worshiping Satan.

Things would get completely out of control, when an often drunken “member” of the club named Lord Santry, would murder an ill and bedridden servant in the lodge by burning him alive. The lodge was soon after abandoned after a mysterious fire took place, while the unfortunate victim’s body would be found almost 250 years later, during the 1970's, buried with a statue of The Devil.

Back to 2016

The spooky history of the location, however, never discouraged the team of archaeologists who were in search of the facts behind the myth and urban legends. As Neil Jackman, an experienced and licensed archaeologist who has excavated sites all over Ireland and has authored many articles and publications to help promote Irish heritage, reports in Abarta Heritage , the discovery of the artwork was the result of incredible serendipity,

“The surface of the stone had been damaged by fires and weathering, so the artwork is almost completely imperceptible to the naked eye.  Had we dug our trenches anywhere else on site we would not have discovered it, and had we excavated during the summer, the higher flatter sunlight may not have revealed the faint trace of the artwork. As the stone was sitting in a disturbed modern layer of material relating to picnics and parties, it was outside of its original context.  We removed it quite early in the dig, though due to the many fires that had been lit upon it, it fractured into four large fragments as we began to lift it from the trench.  As we did not originally notice anything particularly unusual about the stone, we (with some difficulty) lifted it out of the trench and set it on the side, so it would be close at hand for when we began to backfill the trenches.”

Jackman sent initial images to megalithic art experts Professor Muiris O’Sullivan of UCD and Dr Elizabeth Shee Twohig, who visited the site with specialist photographer Ken Williams to use photogrammetry to expose the extent of the designs on the portions of slab which could not be seen by the naked eye. Ecstatic by the exciting news and results, a team from the Discovery Programme of archaeological innovation visited the site the next day to scan the stone and record all details. The valuable lump is now at the National Museum of Ireland for further examination, while an impressive 3-D model can be viewed by visiting sketchfab.com

Possibly More Stones Are “Hiding” There

Although, nobody can be sure at this moment if more stones of the same archaeological significance and art are now lying under a road through the mountains Jackman calls this find “a tantalizing glimpse of that the original tomb may have looked like,” and remains optimistic about the future findings. He told TheJournal.ie, “Unfortunately, these stones appear to have been largely plundered for building material for the Hellfire Club and the Old Military Road. However, perhaps more art remains to be discovered in the future.”

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