- SMR No. ME031-033023- The Tech Midchúarta, or Banqueting Hall at Tara so captured the imagination of the medieval men of learning that they composed fanciful descriptions and illustrations of the king’s court there. They imagined that the monument consisted of a hall, with seven opposed doorways, at the top of which the king of Tara presided over his court, each member being designated a place according to rank. Its heyday was supposed to have occurred during the reign of Cormac mac Airt, whose court was said to have been surpassed only by that of Solomon, son of David. The monument is a linear earthwork consisting of two parallel, though slightly curved banks running downslope from south to north for a distance of 203m. There are slight traces of a terminal bank across the south end. Material for the bank appears to have been derived from the central area which had been dug out to below the surrounding ground level. There are five gaps in the west bank and two slight depressions near the south end. It is more difficult to see the original gaps along the east bank because they were deliberately filled in when a ditch was dug along its base. Five, or possibly six gaps can, however, be noted. But for some quarrying at the north end which foreshortened the east bank, the monument appears to survive to its original length. The north end may originally have terminated in an area of boggy ground known in the dinnshenchas as Sescend Temrach (‘The Marsh of Tara’). Irish linear earthworks can be divided broadly between those that act as boundary markers or defensive frontiers, of which there is a fine example at least 1.5km long to the west of Tara, and those that appear to have been built for ceremonial or ritual purposes such as the Mucklaghs at Crúachain, County Roscommon and the Knockauns at Teltown, County Meath. The only available dating evidence in Ireland is for the boundary markers, which seem to have been built in the centuries around the birth of Christ. What the Tech Midchúarta has in common with ritual linear earthworks apart from its location, is its curvature, the multitude of gaps and the possibility that one end terminates in an area of boggy ground. These monuments may have been built as symbolic representations of functioning boundary markers. Another possibility is that the Tech Midchúarta is a cursus monument. Cursus monuments, sometimes described as ceremonial avenues, are characteristic of the Middle to Late Neolithic in Britain and are an integral part of developed ritual landscapes, three occurring around Stonehenge in Wiltshire. They are quite rare in Ireland - one example is known at Loughcrew, County Meath and a possible variant occurs near Newgrange, County Meath. They are often aligned on earlier ritual and burial monuments and sometimes played an important role in the subsequent spatial development of ritual monuments. The alignment of the Tech Midchúarta on the Mound of the Hostages is evidence in support of its being described as a cursus.
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