One of the Loughcrew eclipse rocks (IrishCentral)

Ancient Irish Were the First Known to Mark an Eclipse in Stone


More than 5,000 years ago people in Ireland carved a representation of an eclipse into three stones at a megalithic monument—the first known recording of a solar eclipse, scholars say. Researchers have further noted that the sun shines into a chamber of this monument in County Meath on the later ancient Celtic festivals of Samhain and Imbolc.

IrishCentral reports :

Our ancient Irish ancestors carved images of an ancient eclipse into giant stones over 5,000 years ago, on November 30, 3340 BC to be exact. This is the oldest known recorded solar eclipse in history. The illustrations are found on the Stone Age “Cairn L,” on Carbane West, at Loughcrew, outside Kells, in County Meath. The landscape of rolling hills is littered with Neolithic monuments. Some say that originally there were at least 40 to 50 monuments, but others say the figure was more like 100.

“Cairn L” received a mention in Astronomy Ireland ’s article: “Irish Recorded Oldest Known Eclipse 5355 Years Ago.” They write that the Irish Neolithic astronomer priests recorded the events on three stones relating to the eclipse, as seen from that location.

Researchers Jack Roberts and Martin Brennan found the sun illuminates a chamber in the monuments on November 1 and February 2, the cross-quarter days, which marked dates halfway between solstices and equinoxes.

A solar eclipse, May 20, 2012 (Photo by Brocken Inaglory/Wikimedia Commons)

A solar eclipse, May 20, 2012 (Photo by Brocken Inaglory/ Wikimedia Commons )

November 1 is the end of summer, which is what Samhain means. The ancient Celts, who came later than the people who made the eclipse carving, considered Samhain the beginning of winter. Christians call it All Saints Day.

February 2, or Imbolc, is midway between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. It was later celebrated by Christians as Candlemas and in Ireland as St. Brigit's Day. The Celts called it the Festival of Lights and lit every candle and lamp in the house to commemorate the rebirth of the sun. Christians too celebrated February 2 with lights. On that day candles were lit in churches to celebrate the presentation of Jesus Christ in the Jerusalem temple.

The Irish called it Imbolc (“lamb's milk”) because it was when lambing season started.

“It was also called Brigantia for the Celtic female deity of light, calling attention to the Sun's being halfway on its advance from the winter solstice to the spring equinox,” explains.

Angels take St. Bride or Brigit, a Catholicized ancient Celtic goddess of light, to Bethlehem to foster the Christ child, John Duncan (Sofi/Flickr)

Angels take St. Bride or Brigit, a Catholicized ancient Celtic goddess of light, to Bethlehem to foster the Christ child, John Duncan ( Sofi/Flickr)

Imbolc is also called Brigit's Day. Brigit means The Bright One. This sun goddess, later subsumed into the Catholic roster of saints, presided over the forge and hearth, crops, livestock and nature and also inspired skills of sacred arts and crafts, according to

Irish Central reports that many people believe the Celts invented the Festival of Lights to welcome the eclipse. They are also believed to have predicted when the eclipse would happen.

Brennan and Roberts noted the sun may not have shown into the chamber on Samhain and Imbolc when the Celts built it in 3340 BC.

In addition, Brennan and Roberts observed full moonlight illuminating the end of the cairn, where light shone on a cup mark on the endstone on August 26, 1980. Then, as the light moved across the chamber, it illuminated the bottom of the Whispering Stone.

“The 3340 BC eclipse is the only eclipse that fits out of the 92 solar eclipses in history tracked by Irish archaeoastronomer expert, Paul Griffin,” Irish Central says. “With none of the technology available to our modern experts the ancient Irish constructed these complex structures, that not only endured over 5,000 years, but were built with such accuracy that they continue to perform their astronomical functions today.”

Within Cairn L is a tall stone pillar called the Whispering Stone, 2 meters tall (7 feet). Irish Central believes that the chamber and cairn were built to house the Whispering Stone.

Featured image: One of the Loughcrew eclipse rocks ( IrishCentral)

By Mark Miller



Mark Miller's picture

Very interesting, Tom. I bet the editor would publish an article about Gordon and his research if you pitched the idea to her.

Thanks for writing.

Mark Miller



Cyrus H. Gordon, the great Middle Eastern linguist and historian, wrote quite a few books, among them Before Columbus.  Gordon argued that the ancients had a worldwide sea network, with people and races traveling everywhere and mixing.

Eclipses make up one part of his argument, although a small one.  Thales, the Greek philosopher scientists, predicted an eclipse.  It takes observations to predict eclipses.  Math alone can’t do it.  So Thales needed observations, but to predict an eclipse you need observations over 120 degrees of longitude.  If you go 120 degrees longitude from Greece either west or east, that puts you into the Pacific.  

So Thales had observations from around the world, almost certainly brought by sailors.  Gordon argues the ancients had massive fleets of ships and understood math and science much better than humans until the time of Newton.  Not just the Minoans and Middle Easterners had fleets, but the Chinese, Japanese, and many others.

And he can back it up.  He has another book Riddles in History, that proves many ancient texts found in the Americas and called fakes by the experts, really did arrive in the Americas thousands of years ago and over a period of thousands of years, based on modern finds in the Middle East that confirm the disputed languages.


Tom Carberry

Mark Miller's picture

I wrote this article, and I find the information about Christians celebrating this exact same day with lighting of candles and lamps fascinating. Festival of Lights (Celtic) and Candlemas (Christian)--both cultures even had names for the day related to lights. Who knows what the people 5,000 years ago called it. Christianity is a part of history.

Mark Miller




“Christians call it all Saints day” So what?

“it was later celebrated by Christians...” So what?

Perhaps it is just me but I find the stirring in of Christianity into this article mildly irritating as it is an aside from the central theme of the article. Unecessary padding. 


Justbod's picture

Fascinating article – thank you!

Sculptures, carvings & artwork inspired by a love of history & nature:





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