Two of Europe’s Biggest Cairns are About to Be Buried in Trash

Two of Europe’s Biggest Cairns are About to Be Buried in Trash

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Two of the biggest European cairns are facing destruction in the World Heritage city of Maulbronn, Germany. If it happens, the prehistoric monuments would be lost and scientific investigation impossible. This would be extremely unfortunate for all the citizens who would like to see these huge prehistoric cairns restored – not buried under trash.

If the present owners of the city’s quarry - Lauster-Steinbruch Stuttgarter Straße - had their way, the mighty buildings would be sold to the landfill operator Fischer in Weilheim and be covered by 400,000 cubic meters of construction waste.

The cairns in Maulbronn, Germany are under threat. (Author provided)

The Massive Cairns of Maulbronn

In the archaeology of Western Europe these impressive relics are generally referred to as megalithic cairns , but they are totally undervalued in Maulbronn. In other parts of Europe, these monuments have been investigated and restored for almost 70 years.

The long, stretched step-pyramids are similar to structures found in Brittany, on the Canary Islands, and in South America and Egypt (such as the mastabas of Saqqara). They are recognized as earlier, quadratic versions of the pharaoh’s pyramids.

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Mastaba of Pharaoh Shepseskaf of the 4th dynasty. ( Jon Bodsworth )

Official and academic archaeologists have been aware of the existence of the megalithic cairns in Maulbronn for a long time, but no investigations have been completed. Some may believe that they don‘t like to be outperformed by citizen scientists announcing such sensational discoveries, but the discoverer Troy Hans Schliemann, was a citizen scientist too.

In Anglo-Saxon countries, citizen scientists may be considered as useful associates in public research, but in this country they are hindered by the state agency which protects historic monuments because they are forbidden by law to carry out excavations.

Stonework Hidden Under Heaps of Rubble

But it was only by examining the Zwerchhälde-Cairn of Sternenfels that we have proven that this supposed rubble heap does not only possess a circular wall, but also systematically set stonework deep inside it. In the early 2000s, geology students at the University of Karlsruhe performed geo-electrical measurements and detected a central cavity measuring 5 meters (16.4 ft.) in height in the mound. If this is the tomb, it is comparable in size with similar but more famous Egyptian structures. However, digging a tunnel to be certain of the find would require engineering skills and financial support.

The first time the three megalithic cairns of the area were mapped was by the surveyor Johann Michael Spaeth from Kleinsachenheim in 1761. The map is upside down, meaning the cardinal points are mixed up.

North should be located at the bottom of the 1761 map. (Author provided)

As you can see on the correctly orientated and shaded relief map in the image below, the volume of the quarry is virtually equal to the two purported rubble heaps. In fact, these “heaps” are built with square-hewn stones without mortar – a technique that is seen in some of the oldest architectural features in the world.

A shaded relief map showing the three megalithic cairns. (Author provided)

Features of the Megalithic Cairns

You can see the exposed stonework at Cairn 2 next to the entrance at the corner of the building. If this was just a pile of rubble, it would consist of boulders, clay, sand, and remnants of broken stones. Yet here you can only find sandstone ashlars (finely-dressed stonework), which would have been used as paving blocks.

A dredger damaged the systematically placed stonework. Nonetheless, you can still see the horizontal set of stones at the very back. With the owners’ permission we could restore the wall within a day. But they have other interests.

The exposed stonework at Cairn 2. (Author provided)

The original façade of Cairn 1 is well-preserved all along the street side and obviously it was set with dry stones. The knee-high wall you see in the image below the prehistoric wall was built circa the 1940s - like the walls inside the entrance which were grouted with cement.

The original façade of Cairn 1 with the modern wall below it. (Author provided)

Cairn 3 is on the South-side of Stuttgart Road, on the city’s builder’s yard.

Cairn 3. (Author provided)

This cairn shows ashlars over the entire wall. The typical stepped style of prehistoric cairn architecture is evident. This is one of the best-preserved specimens.

Cairn 3 is one of the best-preserved. (Author provided)

The megalithic grave it contains has been known about for a long time. It is closed by a steel door.

The steel door on Cairn 3. (Author provided)

You may not expect to find the entrance into the cairn so high up the side, but in the Schmie district we know of the existence of about 20 cairns and some of them have ramps to what are now destroyed grave chambers. This is especially true in Freudenstein, where one can see the existing foundations of grave chambers on what seem to be the second and third floors of a very tall cairn.

Over the years, people have used the well-shaped rock plates and cut stones of the grave chambers for their own purposes and so many of the cairns were reduced to their foundations. This is the sad story of the gradual destruction of our own culture. But it was not so different in Egypt - hundreds of pyramids shared the same fate. Since our monuments stood in archaic quarries the people who dismantled them may have been unaware of their importance.

Big blocks of stone were used in building the corner of the monuments. This was common in ancient buildings. But who would believe in the existence of prehistoric pyramids in this country if responsible archaeologists do not?

Big block cornerstones. (Author provided)

The former owner of the quarry, Rolf Burrer, told us that there are two more tunnels at Cairn 1.

A portal into a grave seems to be next to the access road at Cairn 2. There you can see big blocks of stone that are so familiar to people who have looked at the Egyptian pyramids. The burial chamber tunnel is arched in Cairn 2. The entrance is still walled up and the left side is obviously destroyed. It is the only part of the outer cairn where such big blocks are visible.

The visibly arched portal of Cairn 2. (Author provided)

Comparisons to Other Ancient Monuments

As an art teacher who studied comparative art history I always compare such findings with more well-known prehistoric monuments, for example to the so-called kennel-hole portal tombs of Tobernaveen and Corracloona in Ireland , which are cut in stone too...

Tobernaveen and Corracloona portal tombs in Ireland. (

...and with the burial chamber entrance in the cairn of Montioux nearby Saint Soline in Eastern France. This Celtic period mastaba is dated by some archaeologists to about 1800 BC. However, others say 500 BC would be a more accurate date because iron tools were only officially used from about 800 BC.

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Inside (Sylvain Crouzillat/ CC BY SA 4.0 ) and outside (Regissierra/ CC BY SA 3.0 ) the Montioux tumulus.

You can compare typical Celtic portals with the burial chamber portal of the mastaba of Pharaoh Shepseskaf of the 4th dynasty (2510 - 2500 BC), which was originally walled up, too. Such global comparisons are quite legitimate because pyramids are everywhere in the world and they are similar in architecture.

The Egyptian monument measures 99.6 meters (326.77 ft.) in length, 74.4 meters (244.09 ft.) in width, and 18 meters (59.06 ft.) in height. In comparison, Cairn 2 in Maulbronn measures 166 meters (544.62 ft.) in length, 82 meters (269.03 ft.) in width, and 20 meters (65.62 ft.) in height over the actual level of the road. Both the Egyptian and the German mastabas are comprised of red sandstone.

The entrance to the mastaba of Pharaoh Shepseskaf. (Author provided)

Because our portal is walled up to the arch’s apex it could be a wonderfully simple starting point in the search for the burial chamber. The retaining wall should be some meters thick, if you compare it with the Egyptian monument. But as things are, the prehistoric tomb is not allowed to be uncovered.

Following Dr. Wielands’ theory, the dry masonry walls should only appear at the base as an “encircling wall of a rubble heap.” But we find stone steps and horizontal stonework even on the crest of Cairn 1, where it makes little sense in terms of safety. In comparison, excavators found clay up to 4 meters (13.12 ft.) high along the sides of the pyramids of Teotihuacan, and in Giza meteoric clay from the monuments transformed into desert sands.

There are breaches on the summit of the cairn, which point to burial chambers that have been broken into. (Author provided)

At the street side of Cairn 1 you can see part of a stone step. The stonework could easily be uncovered down the side by removing the erosional rubble. (Author provided)

Horizontal dry stone masonry is visible on the steep Western slope of Cairn 2. The cairn has a length of about 166 meters. (Author provided)

In comparison Cairn F of Bougon has a length of about 72 meters. (Author provided)

If step pyramids were built all around the world, even by the prehistoric farming cultures of North America, why shouldn’t there be any at the productive center of the prehistoric European continent? The preconditions were optimal. In the Celtic Iron Age they had enough raw material to produce steel tools thanks to their enormous ironstone on the Swabian Albtrauf.

Hill sides offered the necessary building blocks and after breaking the stable ground people were able to erect the monuments which are misinterpreted today, even by serious (?) archaeologists, as ordinary rubble heaps.

We do not know if both cairns on the North side of Stuttgart Road were built to be the same length. But there are clues. Near Schlaitdorf there are twin-cairns in front of a quarry too. They are not the same length, either. Maybe a King and Queen were buried together, side by side.

Near Schlaitdorf there are twin-cairns in front of a quarry too. (Author provided)

Nearby Roigheim has a similar layout at the long access path to the rock cut room. But here only one cairn was built along the way. Maybe the queen died and the king was lost on the battle field of the clan wars of the time. The rectangular quarry is completely filled by another cairn. Luckily this is one example which is not fully looted.

Nearby Roigheim has a similar layout, but only one cairn. (Author provided)

Another pair of cairns is standing at the top end of the cloister lake. It looks like the wings of a bird. The soul bird was a popular motif in ancient cultures and can be found on several rockfaces of our rock necropolises.

Another pair of cairns look like the wings of a bird. (Author provided)

The northern cairn. (Author provided)

Such well-preserved ancient stonework can be seen at the back side of the Southern cairn. Imagine, a wall in a rubble heap! I have never seen such a phenomenon before.

The back side of the southern cairn. (Author provided)

Mega Monuments Lost Under Rubbish

It is not the first time that impressive prehistoric monuments have been buried under rubbish. Near the city of Karlsruhe at Grötzingen there is a former quarry called Kaisergrub (Emperor’s pit or Emperor’s grave), a hint that once an emperor, presumably a Gallic Caesar, was buried in this stone grave. After World War II people built a landfill over this supposedly meaningless stone pit – the garbage mountain is now taller than a forest.

Grüne Heiner stands in Weilimdorf near Korntal. It is an imposing prehistoric construction. A triangular monument protrudes out of a quadrangular socket. The US military is said to have unloaded their rubbish at this site.

The rubbish heap over a monument in Weilimdorf. (Author provided)

And this is how it could soon look at Maulbronn. If it does, there is no chance of finding the entrance to the burial chambers.

The area of Fuchsberg near Haberschlacht, which served for decades as a nuclear missile site after World War II, was misused as a dump by the US army too. But there the triangular layout of the large monument is very well preserved. There seems to be a portal to an underground vault there, but concrete slabs block it. It could have been used as a storage space for unknown pollutants. We don’t know.

The supposed portal is identical to the left eye of a stylized bull head. To the left side is the real dump. (Author provided)

Why Aren’t These Sites Being Acknowledged?

It is incomprehensible that there is no acknowledgement of these big prehistoric monuments with us when you can encounter them everywhere in the country. They are never registered by archaeologists - quite the opposite of Great Britain, where people are proud of every single one, for example the tumulus of Langdale End, Scarborough, North Yorkshire.

The tumulus of Langdale End, Scarborough, North Yorkshire. (Author provided)

No one would dare to transform such a magnificent building into a dump. But with us only utilitarian thinking counts, our brilliant ancient culture seems to stand no chance against it.

Another significant example is found in Franconia near Nenzenheim. You can still see the long alley to the main doorway of this Celtic mastaba. It is 395 meters (1295.93 ft.) long, 230 meters (754.59 ft.) wide, and 27 meters (88.58 ft.) tall.

You can still see the long alley to the main doorway of this Celtic mastaba. (Author provided)

Every attempt to represent this building as a dump would fail because such an incision would never occur, it would have been filled in from the beginning. No one would try so hard to avoid a deep ditch like this. An entrance to the building’s interior should have remained open. You can imagine a subterranean disposal site, too. But you can only speculate how much rubbish was tipped on the original building.

If you compare the famous megalithic monument of Maeshowe on the Orkney Islands (circa 3000 BC) you see a similar long, deep incision. That mount is 7 meters (22.97 ft.) tall and its diameter is 35 meters (114.83 ft.) wide. The alleyway has a length of nearly 12 meters (39.37 ft.), but in Nenzenheim it is about 60 meters (196.85 ft.) long.

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It makes you wonder, how vast are the hidden chambers of Nenzenheim?

Are the Maulbronn Cairns Destined to be Garbage Dumps?

The officials of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg are called upon to take responsibility for these colossal prehistoric monuments and start exploring the burial chambers we are forbidden to investigate ourselves.

At comparable taxpayers’ expense, unnecessary rescue digs are carried out just to explore the last cesspool of the Middle Ages, instead of important monuments of real world heritage, which could be restored for the people of our country and for all of mankind.

You can read more information about the current status of our research on our homepage:

10 Unique Burial Sites With Amazing Histories

Over the course of history, people have spent many a different way figuring out how to properly and respectfully remove the dead from the living. Testaments to their work still survive to this day&mdashfrom the Valley of the Kings to the necropolises in Greece. Although they are strong examples of the interesting ways in which people buried their dead, they are definitely not the only ways.

In addition to the burial sites that everyone knows about, there exist smaller yet still very interesting examples of how people treated the dead. Here are 10 unique burial sites that have their own stories to tell.

History of Rock Cairns

Who had this crazy idea to use rocks to mark the path? It isn’t a new idea at all. Sailors often used stone mounds before lighthouses to support navigation. Stone piles were and are still very common for route-marking in the Andes mountain range, the Tibetan plateau, and Mongolia. Many of the mounds that stand today in these mountains are ancient and historical.

Cairns, in history and today, have also been used for non-navigational reasons. They have been built as burial monuments, for defense, for ceremonial purposes, or to hide a food cache. Similar in look to rock cairns is the new modern art and hobby of “rock balancing,” where people create abstract towers with rocks.

Photo Cred: Fougerouse Arnaud

The Ancient Kingdom of Connaught[1]

Roderick O'Connor, the last Milesian Monarch of Ireland, after having reigned twenty years, abdicated the throne, A.D. 1186, and, after a religious seclusion of thirteen years in the monastery of Cong, in the county Mayo, died, A.D. 1198, in the 82nd year of his age and was buried in Clonmacnoise, in the same sepulchre with his father, Torlogh O'Connor, the 181st Monarch of Ireland. In the chronological poem on the Christian Kings of Ireland, written in the twelfth century, is the following stanza:&mdash

"Ocht m-Bliadhna agus deich Ruadri an Ri,

Mac Toirdhealbhaidh an t-Ard Ri,

Flaith na n-Eirend: gan fhell,

Ri deighneach deig Eirenn."

"Eighteen years the Monarch Roderick,

Son of Torlogh, supreme sovereign,

Ireland's undisputed ruler,

Was fair Erin's latest king."

According to the Four Masters, Roderick O'Connor, reigned as Monarch for twenty years: from A.D. 1166 to A.D. 1186.


[1] Connaught: According to Keating and O'Flaherty, Connaught derived its name either from "Con," one of the chief Druids of the Tua-de-Danans, or from Conn Ceadcatha (Conn of the Hundred Battles), Monarch of Ireland, in the second century, and of the line of Heremon (see No. 80, page 358), whose posterity possessed the country the word iacht or iocht, signifying children or posterity, and hence "Coniacht," the ancient name of Connaught, means the territory possessed by the posterity of Conn.

The ancient kingdom of Connaught comprised the present counties of Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Roscommon, and Leitrim, together with Clare, now in Munster, and Cavan, now a part of Ulster and was divided into Tuaisceart Conacht or North Connaught, Deisceart Conacht or South Connaught, and lar Conacht or West Connaught. North Connaught was also called Iachtar Conacht or Lower Connaught as was South Connaught called Uachtar Conacht or Upper Connaught.

North Connaught is connected with some of the earliest events in Irish history. According to our ancient annalists, it was in the time of Partholan or Bartholinus, who planted the first colony in Ireland, that the lakes called Lough Conn and Lough Mask in Mayo, and Lough Gara in Sligo, on the borders of Roscommon, suddenly burst forth and in South Connaught, according to O'Flaherty, the lakes called Lough Cime (now Lough Hackett), Lough Riadh or Loughrea, and some other lakes in the county Galway, and also the river Suck between Roscommon and Galway, first began to flow in the time of Heremon, Monarch of Ireland, No. 37, page 351 and Lough Key in Moylurg, near Boyle in the county Roscommon, first sprang out in the reign of the Monarch Tiernmas, No. 41, page 352. On the arrival of the colony of the Firvolgians in Ireland, a division of them landed on the north-western coast of Connaught, in one of the bays, now called Blacksod or the Broadhaven. These Firvolgians were named Fir-Domhnan or Damnonians: and the country where they landed was called Iarras, or Iarras Domhnan, (from "iar," the west, and "ros," a promontory or peninsula, signifying the western promontory or peninsula of the Damnonians): a term exactly corresponding with the topographical features of the country and to the present day the name has been retained in that of the half barony of "Erris," in the county Mayo.

When the Tua-de-Danans, who conquered the Firvolgians, first invaded Ireland, they landed in Ulster, and proceeded thence to Slieve-an-larain (or the Iron Mountain), in Brefney, and thenceforward into the territory of Connaught. The Firvolgians having collected their forces to oppose their progress, a desperate battle was fought between them at a place called Magh Tuireadh or the Plain of the Tower, in which the Firvolgians were totally defeated&mdashten thousand of them being slain, together with Eochad, son of Eirc their king, who was buried, on the sea-shore: a cairn of large stones being erected over him as a sepulchral monument, which remains to this day. This place is on the strand, near Ballysodare in the county of Sligo, and was called Traigh-an-Chairn or the Strand of the Cairn. After a few more battles, the De-Danans became possessors of Ireland, which they ruled until the arrival of the Milesians, who conquered them and in their turn became masters of Ireland.

The Firvolgians, having assisted the Milesians in the conquest of the Tua-de-Danans, were, in consequence, restored by the Milesians to a great part of their former possessions, particularly in Connaught in which province they were ruled by their own kings of the Firvolgian race down to the third century, when the Monarch Cormac Mac Art, of the Heremon line, brought them under subjection, and annexed Connaught to his kingdom. The Firvolgians appear to have been an athletic race and the "Clan-na-Morna" of Connaught, under their Firvolgian chief, Goll, son of Morna, are celebrated in the Ossianic poems and ancient annals as famous warriors in the third century. Many of the Firvolgian race are still to be found in Connaught, but blended by blood and intermarriages with the Milesians. The Tua-de-Danans were originally Scythians, who had settled some time in Greece, and afterwards migrated to Scandinavia or the countries now forming Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. From Scandinavia (the "Fomoria" of the ancient Irish) the De-Danans came to North Britain where they settled colonies, and thence passed into Ireland. It appears that the Danans were a highly civilized people, skilled in the arts and sciences: hence they were considered as magicians. O'Brien, in his learned work on the "Round Towers of Ireland," considers that these beautiful structures were built by the Tua-de-Danans, for purposes connected with pagan worship and astronomical observations: an opinion very probable when it is considered that they were highly skilled in architecture and other arts, from their long residence in Greece and intercourse with the Phoenicians.

It is stated that Orbsen, a chief descended from the Danans and Fomorians, was a famous merchant, and carried on a commercial intercouse between Ireland and Britain and that he was killed by Uillinn of the Red Brows, another De-Danan chief, in a battle called, from that circumstance, Magh Uillinn or the Plain of Uillinn, now the barony of "Moycullen," in the county Galway. In South Connaught, the territory which forms the present county Clare was taken from Connaught in the latter part of the third century, and added to part of Limerick, under the name of Tuadh-Mumhain or North Munster (a word anglicised "Thomond") of which the O'Briens, of the Dalcassian race, became Kings.

Cormac Mac Art, the celebrated Monarch of Ireland in the second century, was born in Corran at the place called Ath-Cormac or the Ford of Cormac, near Keis-Corran (now "Keash") in the county Sligo and hence he was called "Cormac of Corran."

The territory of North Connaught is connected in a remarkable manner with the mission of St. Patrick to Ireland Mullagh Farry (in Irish Forrach-mhac-nAmhailgaidh), now "Mullafarry," near Killala, in the barony of Tyrawley, and county Mayo, is the place where St. Patrick converted to Christianity the king or prince of that territory (Enda Crom) and his seven sons and baptized twelve thousand persons in the water of a well called Tobar Enadharc. And Croagh Patrick mountain also in Mayo, was long celebrated for the miracles it is said the saint performed there. The See of Killala was founded by St. Patrick.

At Carn Amhalgaidh or "Carnawley," supposed to be the hill of Mullaghcarn (where King Awley was buried), the chiefs of the O'Dowds were inaugurated as princes of Hy-Fiachra while, according to other accounts they were inaugurated on the hill of Ardnaree, near Ballina. This principality of Northern Hy-Fiachra comprised the present counties of Mayo and Sligo, and a portion of Galway while the territory of Hy-Fiachra, in the county Galway was called the Southern Hy-Fiachra or Hy-Fiachra Aidhne: so named after Eogan Aidhne, son of Dathi, the last pagan Monarch of Ireland, who was killed by lightning at the foot of the Alps. A.D. 429. This territory of Hy-Fiachra Aidhne was co-extensive with the present diocese of Kilmacduagh and was possessed by the descendants of Eoghan Aidhne, the principal of whom were&mdashO'Heyne or Hynes, O'Clery, and O'Shaughnessy. According to O'Dugan and MacFirbis, fourteen of the race of Hy-Fiachra were kings of Connaught: some of whom had their chief residence in Aidhne, in Galway others at Ceara, now the barony of "Carra" in Mayo and some on the plain of the Muaidhe or the (river) Moy, in Sligo. O'Dubhda or O'Dowd were head chiefs of the northern Hy-Fiachra, and their territory comprised nearly the whole of the present county Sligo, with the greater part of Mayo. Many of the O'Dowds, even down to modern times, were remarkable for their great strength and stature. (See the "O'Dowd" pedigree.)

Cruaghan or Croaghan, near Eiphin in the county Roscommon, became the capital of Connaught and the residence of its ancient kings and the estates of Connaught held conventions there to make laws and inaugurate their kings. At Cruaghan was the burial place of the pagan kings of Connaught, called Reilig na Riogh or The Cemetery of the kings here Dathi, the last pagan Monarch of Ireland, was buried and a large red pillar-stone erected over his grave remains to this day. A poem, giving an account of the kings and queens buried at Cruaghan, was composed by Torna Eigeas or Torna, the learned, chief bard to the Monarch Niall of the Nine Hostages, in the fourth century, of the commencement of which the following is a translation:

"Under thee lies the fair king of the men of Fail,

Dathi, son of Fiachra, man of fame:

O! Cruacha (Cruaghan), thou hast this concealed

From the Galls and the Gaels."

In the "Books" of Annagh and Ballymote, and other ancient records, are given some curious accounts of the customs used in the interment of the ancient kings and chiefs: Laoghaire (or Leary), Monarch of Ireland in the fifth century, was buried in the rampart or rath called Rath Leary, at Tara, with his military weapons and armour on him his face turned southwards, bidding defiance, as it were, to his enemies the men of Leinster. And Owen Beul, a king of Connaught in the sixth century, who was mortally wounded at the battle of Sligeach (or Sligo), fought with the people of Ulster, gave directions that he should be buried with his red javelin in his hand, and his face towards Ulster, as in defiance of his enemies but the Ulstermen came with a strong force and raised the body of the king, and buried it near Lough Gill, with the face downwards, that it might not be the cause of making them "fly" before the Conacians. Near Lough Gill in Sligo are two great cairns still remaining, at which place was probably an ancient cemetery of some of the kings of Connaught and another large one, near Cong, in the county Mayo. There are still some remains of Reilig-na-Riogh at Cruaghan or Croaghan in the county Roscommon, consisting of a circular area of about two hundred feet in diameter, surrounded with some remains of an ancient stone ditch and in the interior are heaps of rude stones piled upon each other, as stated in "Weld's Survey of Roscommon." Dun Aengus or the Fortress of Aengus, erected on the largest of the Arran Islands, off the coast of Galway, and situated on a tremendous cliff overhanging the sea, consists of a stone work of immense strength of Cyclopean architecture, composed of large stones without mortar or cement. It is of a circular form, and capable of containing within its area two hundred cows. According to O'Flaherty, it was erected by Aengus or Conchobhar, two of the Firvolgian kings of Connaught, before the Christian era and was also called the Dun of Concovar or Connor.

After the introduction of Christianity, the Irish kings and chiefs were buried in the abbeys, churches, and cathedrals: the Monarch Brian Boru, killed at the battle of Clontarf, was, it is said, buried in the cathedral of Armagh the kings of Connaught, in the abbeys of Clonmacnoise, Cong, Knockmoy, Roscommon, etc.

It is stated by O'Flaherty, that six of the sons of Brian, king of Connaught, the ancestor of the Hy-Briuin, were converted and baptized by St. Patrick, together with many of the people, on the plain of Moyseola in Roscommon and that the saint erected a church, called Domhnach Mór or the "great church," on the banks of Lough Sealga, now Lough Hacket and that on three pillar stones which, for the purpose of pagan worship, had been raised there in the ages of idolatry, he had the name of Christ inscribed in three languages: on one of them, "Iesus" on another, "Soter" and on the third, "Salvator." Ono, a grandson of Brian, king of Connaught, made a present to St. Patrick of his palace, called Imleach Ona, where the saint founded the episcopal see of Oilfinn or "Elphin," which obtained the name from a spring well the saint had sunk there, and on the margin of which was erected a large stone: thus from "Oil," which means a stone or rock, and "finn," which signifies fair or clear, the name Oilfinn or Elphin was derived, and which meant the rock of the limpid water. O'Flaherty states that this stone continued there till his own time, A.D. 1675.

A king of Connaught in the latter end of the seventh century, named Muireadhach Muilleathan, who died A.D. 700, and a descendant of the above named Brian, son of Eochy Moyvone, was the ancestor of the Siol Muireadhaigh which became the chief branch of the Hy-Briune race, and possessed the greater part of Connaught, but were chiefly located in the territory now forming the county Roscommon: hence the term "Siol Murray" was applied to that territory. The O'Connors who became kings of Connaught were the head chiefs of Siol Murray and took their name from Conchobhar or Connor, who was a king of Connaught in the tenth century. The grandson of this Conchobhar, Tadhg an Eich Geal or Teige of the White Steed, who was king of Connaught in the beginning of the eleventh century, and who died A.D. 1030, was the first who took the sirname of "O'Connor." In the tenth century, as mentioned in the Annals of the Four Masters, two or three of the O'Rourkes are styled kings of Connaught but, with these exceptions, the ancestors of the O'Connors of the race of Hy-Briune and Siol Murray, and the O'Connors themselves, held the sovereignty of Connaught from the fifth to the fifteenth century and two of them became Monarchs of Ireland, in the twelfth century, namely, Torlogh O'Connor, called Toirdhealbhach Mór or Torlogh the Great, who is called by the annalists the "Augustus of Western Europe" and his son, Roderick O'Connor, who was the last Milesian Monarch of Ireland. This Torlogh O'Connor died at Dunmore, in Galway, A.D. 1156, in the 68th year of his age, and was buried at Clonmacnoise. And Roderick O'Connor, after having reigned eighteen years, abdicated the throne, A.D. 1184, in consequence of the Anglo-Norman invasion and, after a religious seclusion of thirteen years in Cong Abbey, in the county Mayo, died A.D. 1198, in the 82nd year of his age, and was buried in Clonmacnoise in the same sepulchre with his father. In the "Memoirs" of Charles O'Connor of Belenagar, it is said, that in the latter end of the fourteenth century the two head chiefs of the O'Connors, namely, Torlogh Roe and Torlogh Don, having contended for the lordship of Siol Murray, agreed to divide the territory between them. The families descended from Torlogh Don called themselves the O'Connors "Don" or the Brown O'Connors while the descendants of Torlogh Roe called themselves the O'Connors "Roe" or the Red O'Connors. Another branch of the O'Connors got great possessions in the county Sligo, and were styled the O'Connors "Sligo."&mdashCONNELLAN.

Secret Jacobite society discover a mass grave- 272 years after the Battle of Culloden

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A historic dig will take place to fully discover the mass grave

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History has always said they were buried there


History says 16 of Bonnie Prince Charlie&rsquos officers, found hiding in the dungeon at Culloden House, where the prince stayed the night before the battle, were shot by Redcoats and buried by the &ldquoBargas Tree&rdquo in the grounds.

The tree &ndash an English Elm, complete with leg and neck irons &ndash is long gone, as is a commemorative 5ft stone with the inscription &ldquoHere lie soldiers killed by the English after the Battle of Culloden&rdquo.

Only a small grassy knoll remains where the tree once stood.

But now a geophysical survey has shown three pits under the mound.

Robert Cairns, chairman of the Lochaber Archaeological Society, which commissioned the research, said: &ldquoWe are very excited about the results.

Related articles

&ldquoThe mound has three distinctive pits in it so obviously it is quite significant.

&ldquoIt is not something that you would normally find in the mound. We are planning to put in a small trench later in the year to see if there are any human remains in the largest pit.

&ldquoWe are confident we will find human remains. Then it will become a war grave.&rdquo

A metal detector survey of the surrounding lawns of the four star Culloden House Hotel uncovered a number of important finds, including mid-18th century halfpennies, pistol and musket balls, an iron buckle or clasp, military shirt buttons, a set of 18th or 19th century ploughshares, a 10cm ornamental brass base and part of a sword blade.


The Battle of Culloden took place nearly 272 years ago

Mr Cairns made the shock announcement to the secret Jacobite Society, A Circle of Gentlemen, founded in 1747 the year after Culloden, the last battle fought on British soil.

A member of A Circle of Gentlemen, David McGovern, 45, who is also a traditional stone carver from the village of Monikie in

Angus, said: &ldquoIt looks like we have found the martyrs&rsquo graves.

&ldquoHistory has always said they were buried there but now modern science seems to have confirmed it. We look forward to the results of the dig. This was the first atrocity in what was to become, by all intents and purposes, genocide.&rdquo

On April 16, 1746, Bonnie Prince Charlie&rsquos attempts to restore the Stuarts to the British throne came to a bloody end as the government army, led by Charlie&rsquos distant cousin William, the Duke of Cumberland, left, defeated the Jacobites &ndash mostly made up of Highlanders &ndash on bleak Culloden Moor.

7 of the World’s Oldest Foods Discovered by Archeologists

Food rots fast. Therefore it is cause for great history-nerd celebration when archeologists dig up food preserved centuries past its expiration date. Here are seven of the most venerable victuals.

1. Roman Tomb Wine

There was a long period in history in which Romans infested the world like fleas. Wealthy, heavily armed, road-building fleas. And when they died, they liked to be buried in style. Because of that, a bottle of their wine has reached our modern world. The wine, found by excavators in Germany, is the oldest known that is still in a liquid state. It was discovered in one of two sarcophaguses, alongside many other bottles that had long since dried up. This bottle stayed wet because the olive oil used (in place of a cork) to protect the wine from oxidizing did its job really well. And what was the result of 1600 years of aging? The contents are both waxy and silty, and the alcohol content is long gone. Still, the bouquet is quite piquant, obstinate even. Recommended pairing is roasted ox.

2. Burnt British Bread

Some say it was a garbage pit, some think it was place of religious offering. Whatever it was originally, by the 21 st century it had become a big hole, flooded with water, and it had small pieces of burnt bread and other Neolithic odds and ends floating in it. The bread was the most important discovery. Found in Oxfordshire, England, and estimated to be 5500 years old, the overcooked bread was mistaken for charcoal at first. Then one of the archeologists noticed crushed grains of barley inside of it. If the age is correct, it would have been made by some of the first people to enter Britain from Europe. That crushed barley represents a world-altering revolution, as the newcomers brought with them the fledgling practice of farming, sadly ending the age of throwing pointy sticks at mammoths.

3. Bone Soup

While excavating to make way for a new airport, Chinese workers struck liquid gold. Well, liquid gold if you happen to be an archeologist. Or really into soup. The soup, sealed so tightly in its bronze cooking pot that it was still in a liquid state, was discovered in a tomb near Xian. It didn’t look too savory, having turned green from 2400 years of bronze oxidation. It also still contained bones, which delighted archeologists, probably because they didn’t actually have to eat it.

4. Bog Butter

In Ireland of 3000 years ago, there were limited options for storing your 77 pound barrels of butter. Archeologists are eternally grateful that the inhabitants near a Kildare bog chose to sink theirs into peat, and then forgot about it, because it was still there in 2009. Amazingly, it was intact but for one split, and still full of butter. The butter has lost some of its creamy richness in the interceding millennia, turning to a fatty white wax called adipocere. The National Museum of Ireland conservator Carol Smith says the public will never know how it tastes. "It's a national treasure," she said. "You can't be going hacking bits of it off for your toast!"

5. The Original Noodles

Nature/KBK Teo/E Minoux et al

Everyone says they invented the noodle first. The Chinese, the Italians, the Arabs, they all want credit for that staple of the impoverished college student’s dinner. But thanks to a discovery at the Lajia archeological site on the Yellow River in China, the debate may be over. No other historic noodle has even come close to Lajia’s 4000 year old noodles cache. In the aftermath of an ancient earthquake, the Yellow River flooded, causing disaster to those who lived along it. In his haste to get away, one unfortunate diner left his bowl of millet grass noodles overturned. "It was this unique combination of factors that created a vacuum or empty space between the top of the sediment cone and the bottom of this bowl that allowed the noodles to be preserved," archeologist Kam-biu Liu said. China for the win! In your face, Ziti!

6. Beef Jerky

Beef jerky travels well, especially if your journey is on to the next world. That is probably why whoever was buried in the 2000 year old tomb found in the village of Wanli, China, packed so much of it. Archeologists took a while to determine that the black and green carbonized mess they found sealed inside a beautiful bronze pot was beef. When they did, that made it the oldest beef ever discovered in China. They could even prove it was actually jerky, as it had not shrunk over the millennia, showing it had already been dried before being placed in the tomb.

7. Chocolate

This 110 year old tin of chocolate does not date from antiquity like the rest of the food on this list, but it still might be the world’s oldest chocolate. There is evidence that chocolate (usually liquid) was made in ancient times, but not much actual chocolate candy has been left uneaten long enough to become antiquated. This little box comes from Scotland, and was made especially to commemorate the coronation day of King Edward VII in 1902. The chocolate passed from the original schoolgirl who abstained from eating it, mother to daughter, until it was donated to the St. Andrews Preservation Trust in 2008. I call the caramels. You can have the coconut.

Two of Europe’s Biggest Cairns are About to Be Buried in Trash - History

The first settlers came to Ireland around 6,500 BC, in the period known as the Mesolithic Age, archaeological evidence suggesting that they probably came from the Galloway region of Scotland and Cumbria in northern England to the east coast of Ulster. In the following Neolithic period the inhabitants have left us widesprea evidence of their presence, in the form of intriguing stone burial monuments, such as dolmens and court cairns. Some of Europe's largest and most impressive Stone Age monuments are those erected by the Neolithic Irish in the Boyne valley, the best known being the great passage tomb at Newgrange. The court cairns, which are distributed mainly around the northern half of Ireland, are also found in south west Scotland, leading Sean O Riordain to comment: "The tombs and the finds from them form a continuous province joined rather than divided by the narrow waters of the North Channel."

Such a link is hardly surprising. With Ireland and Scotland separated, at their closest points, by only thirteen miles, and considering that much of the land was covered with dense forest, the North Channel of the Irish Sea would have acted not as a barrier but rather as an effective means of communication. Indeed, commenting on the archaelogical evidence for contact across the Irish Sea, John Waddell suggested:

"We may be seeing just the archaeologically visible elements of a much more complex pattern of social interaction across and around the Irish Sea. Perhaps we have greatly underestimated the extent to which this body of water linked the two islands in prehistoric times."

The earliest known reference to the British Isles, made between 330 and 300 BC by the Greek geographer and voyager Pytheas in his Concerning the Ocean, describes them as the Isles of the Pretani, the 'Pretani' thus becoming the most ancient inhabitants of Britain and Ireland to whom a definite name can be given. In Ireland these ancient British Pretani (or Britanni) were later to become known as Cruthin, while in Scotland they became known as Picts. In the writings of the medieval Irish it is clear a definite kinship was believed to have existed between these ancient peoples. We are not in a position to ascertain the full extent of their relationship, but the proximity of north-east Ulster to south-west Scotland, coupled with the archaeological evidence of ongoing contact, would certainly lend weight to the strong possibility that it was very close. Indeed, as Liam de Paor has commented:

"The gene pool of the Irish. is probably very closely related to the gene pools of highland Britain. Within that fringe area, relationships, both cultural and genetic, almost certainly go back to a much more distant time than that uncertain period when Celtic languages and customs came to dominate Great Britain and Ireland. Therefore, so far as the physical make-up of the Irish goes. they share these origins with their fellows in the neighbouring parts - the north and west - of the next-door island of Great Britain."

So here we have our first anomaly: the peoples of Ireland and Scotland, who, in popular imagery, are deemed to have had only minimal contact with each other prior to the 17th century Plantation and are assumed to be of quite different ethnic stock, in reality show evidence of extensive contact as far back as the Stone Age, and scholars now acknowledge that in all probability the two peoples share a close cultural and genetic inheritance.

Scholars also accept that both peoples owe their predominant ancestry to their pre-Celtic past, an ancestry consolidated during the Neolithic period. It is now believed that any intrusions into Ireland which occurred subsequent to this period involved relatively small numbers of people. This applies even when we consider the Celts. A seminar held by the Irish Association of Professional Archaeologists in 1984 acknowledged that any Celtic intrusions into Ireland were more than probably carried out by numbers "far inferior to the native population(s)". As archaeologist Peter Woodman has pointed out:

"The gene pool of the Irish was probably set by the end of the Stone Age when there were very substantial numbers of people present and the landscape had already been frequently altered. The Irish are essentially Pre-Indo-European, they are not physically Celtic. No invasion since could have been sufficiently large to alter this fact completely."

"But was there a displacement of population, with tall, blond, blue-eyed Celts coming to take over from the small dark people (if such they were) of Mesolithic and Neolithic origin? Not at all. The Celts were, at best, the Ascendancy of their day, a minority powerful enough to impose their language."

We cannot be certain as to when the first groups of Celtic people rived in Ireland, but it is now clear that, contrary to a once popular belief, they were not present in Ireland from time immemorial, and are - in historical terms - of much more recent origin. At present there is no evidence which can place Celtic settlement in Ireland, as laracterised by intrusive burial customs, before the 1st century AD. However, despite their small numbers, the Celts, particularly those known to us as the Gaels, soon acquired a dominant position in Irish political life, perhaps because of their martial skills, perhaps because of the dynastic manner in which they divided out their conquests. Once Gaelic power had begun to consolidate itself, their most Important dynasty, the Ui Neill, embarked upon the conquest of the north of the island, the territory associated with the ancient province . Ulster. The progress of this conquest, however, was resisted by the pre-Celtic Cruthin population in alliance with the Celtic Ulaid the Old British people from whom Ulster gets its name. Nevertheless, under relentless Ui Neill pressure the Ulster leaders were forced to retreat eastwards, and it was possibly this contraction of their territory which occasioned groups within the Northern population to move across the North Channel, in particular the Dal Riata, who settled Argyll and the islands along the western seaboard. It was these settlers, who had been labelled 'Scotti' by the Romans, who bequeathed the name 'Scotland' to their new homeland.

The kings of Dal Riata soon claimed sovereignty over territory on both sides of the North Channel, and from the kings of 'Dalriada' , there is a direct link to the kings of Scotland, and thus to William and James themselves. (As grandson and son respectively of Charles I, the two kings were also both directly descended from the Breton (Old British) nobility, the progenitors of the House of Stuart, who had 'returned' to Britain with William the Conqueror.) Apart from the political changes the Celts wrought within Irish society, their most important cultural legacy was the introduction of a vibrant and beautiful language which, when later complemented by an intense outpouring of creativeness, would place Ireland to the forefront of Western European literature. The Ulster emigrants to Scotland were to take this Gaelic language with them and it spread throughout the Highlands and islands - perhaps one of the most remarkable examples of the extent of the interrelationship between the two peoples.

With the arrival of the Christian period Ireland witnessed an upsurge in intense missionary activity which not only spread across the North Channel to Scotland, but was to have a fundamental impact on European history, epitomised by the great missionary journeys of Columbanus. Another of the great religious figures of Ireland was Columba (Columb-Cille) , a prince of the Ui Neill. He became a close friend of Comgall, the Cruthin abbot of the monastery at Bangor - from whence Columbanus was to set forth - even though the political and ethnic rivalries between their respective kinsmen must at times have sorely tested their shared Christianity. Columba's legend would have us believe that it was these political and ethnic distractions which finally persuaded him to leave Ireland and set up a new community out of sight of its shores. Whatever the reasons, the history of the Church was to be so much the richer, for the community he founded, on the small island of Iona, close to the coast of Argyll, was destined to be the cultural apotheosis of Scotland, and the place some scholars believe the magnificent Book of Kells was executed. During this period the cross-fertilisation between Scotland and Ulster was to reach new heights, particularly in the flowering of literary creativeness. As Proinsias Mac Cana wrote:

"Isolation tends towards stagnation, or at least a circumscribed vision, while conversely intercourse and cultural commerce encourage a greater intellectual curiosity and awareness, a greater readiness to adapt old ways and experiment with new ones. For such intercourse the east-Ulster region was ideally situated. It was a normal landing-place for travellers from northern Britain, which during the sixth and seventh centuries probably presented a more dramatic clash and confluence of cultures than any other part of Britain or Ireland and, in addition, the religious, social and political ties that linked north-eastern Ireland and northwestern Britain - particularly in that period - were numerous and close. Archaeologists speak of an 'Irish Sea culture-province' with its western flank in Ireland and its eastern flank in Britain one might with comparable justification speak of a North Channel culture-province within which obtained a free currency of ideas, literary, intellectual and artistic."

The Gaelic Ui Neill (later synonymous with the O'Neills) had still failed to complete their subjugation of the eastern part of Ulster when that task was accomplished by another body of armed men. In 1169 the first 'Anglo-Normans' arrived on Irish soil, by 'invitation' rather than 'invasion', answering a request by Dermot Mac Murchada, deposed King of Leinster, for assistance in regaining his kingship. In 1177 one of these adventurers, John de Courcy, marched north and captured Downpatrick. The Ulstermen at first strongly opposed this new threat to their independence but increasing raids by the O'Neills forced them to ally with de Courcy. His successor, Hugh de Lacy, was created Earl of Ulster by King John of England.

These first 'Anglo-Normans', however, only retained a tenuous foothold in Ireland, and the Gaelic chiefs continued to resist their presence. Then in 1314 the Scots, under Robert the Bruce, defeated the English at the battle of Bannockburn. O Neill of Tyrone offered to make Robert's brother Edward King of Ireland, and in May 1315 Edward landed at Larne harbour on the Antrim coast. Following a campaign of devastation Edward Bruce of Scotland was eventually crowned King of Ireland on 1 May 1316, in the presence of a large assembly of Irish and Scottish nobles. He had brought with him 6,000 Scottish mercenaries - the galloglasses - and over the new few centuries the Irish imported a constant stream of these Scots, many of whom were rewarded with land. Edward finally perished in battle near Dundalk in 1318. One important consequence of the 'Scottish invasion' was that the power of the Earls of Ulster was crushed, and the Q'Neills were finally able to fulfil their ultimate ambition of controling the whole of the North. Now at last they could claim to be kings over all of Ulster and the territory of Ulster stretched once again to its ancient boundary of the River Boyne.

The English intensified their efforts at conquest during the reign of Elizabeth I. Despite notable successes for the Gaelic leaders their resistance was finally broken at Kinsale in 1601. Then, on 4 September 1607, after continued harassment by Crown officials, many of Ulster's Gaelic chieftains, including the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell, chose voluntary exile and sailed from Rathmullan for Europe. This act was tantamount to abandoning their people to the mercy of the English, although perhaps for the Irish peasantry the 'Flight of the Earls' was viewed as little more than the replacement of one set of landowners by another, for, as A T Q Stewart pointed out with regard to other Gaelic lords displaced some centuries later: "The lament of the Gael is their lament, the poets were their poets."

The departure of the Gaelic leaders gave the English government the opportunity to declare their lands forfeit, and some 750,000 acres were confiscated by the Crown. King James I decided to plant settlers in Ulster, hoping that it might prove an effective way of civilsing' this most rebellious part of Ireland once and for all, thus the idea of the "Plantation" was conceived.

50,000 evacuate German city over unexploded WWII bombs

Authorities in Hanover defuse two bombs, while a third requires special equipment to be neutralised.

More than 50,000 people were evacuated from Germany’s northern city of Hanover on Sunday in one of the country’s largest post-war operations to defuse unexploded World War II-era bombs.

Residents in a densely populated part of the city were ordered to leave their homes for the operation, planned since mid-April, to remove several recently discovered unexploded bombs.

Authorities had expected to remove at least five explosive devices, but only three were found. Two were defused successfully, while the third required special equipment to be made safe.

At two other sites, only scrap metal was found.

More than 70 years after the end of the war, unexploded bombs are regularly found buried in Germany, a legacy of the intense air campaigns by allied forces against Nazi Germany.

On October 9, 1943, some 261,000 bombs were dropped on Hanover and surrounding areas.

Several retirement and nursing homes were affected and some rail traffic through the city was disrupted because of the operation, which was expected to last all day.

Authorities arranged sports, cultural and leisure activities – including museum visits – and film screenings for residents affected by the mass evacuation.

German authorities are under pressure to remove unexploded bombs from populated areas with experts arguing that old ordnance is becoming more dangerous as time goes by because of material fatigue.

The biggest evacuation took place in December 2016 when an unexploded British bomb forced 54,000 people out of their homes in the southern city of Augsburg.

Germany’s biggest evacuation over WWII bombs took place in December 2016 in the southern city of Augsburg [Stefan Puchner/AP Photo]

Urban Ski Slope to Raise Profile of Europe's Waste-to-Energy Drive

The Amager Bakke incinerator project under construction in Copenhagen, Denmark, is the flashiest example of Europe's effort to deploy waste-to-energy technology to cut carbon emissions.

Copenhagen, with a waterfront already famous for bike lanes, pedestrian walkways, and offshore wind turbines, is adding another clean energy feature to its urban landscape: a ski resort.

Perhaps the man-made slope will never rival the summits of Sweden or the Alps, where residents of Denmark's capital city typically travel to ski. But it will draw attention to Copenhagen's world-leading effort to cut fossil energy and waste. The ski slope will rest atop a $389 million (500 million euro), 60-megawatt power station fueled entirely by the city's garbage. (See related: "Quiz: What You Don't Know About Electricity.")

The Amager Bakke incinerator, now under construction, will contribute to Copenhagen's ambitious goal of becoming carbon-neutral by 2025. When finished in 2017, it will produce heat for 160,000 households and electricity for 62,500 residences. It is perhaps the flashiest example yet of Europe's effort to deploy cutting-edge waste-to-energy technology in the effort to cut greenhouse gas emissions. While some critics in Europe's green movement question the environmental benefits, and cost also can be an obstacle, cities like Copenhagen are convinced that producing megawatts is better than piling trash in landfills. (See related story: "On Mount Everest, Seeking Biogas Energy in a Mountain of Waste.")

Turning Trash to Treasure

The move toward waste-to-energy (WTE) plants was kick-started in 1999, with a European Union directive requiring member states to greatly reduce the amount of garbage going to landfills. As of 2010 (the most current year for which statistics are available), there were 451 WTE facilities in Europe, up from 390 in 2001, according to the Confederation of European Waste-to-Energy Plants (CEWEP). The plants annually incinerate 73 million metric tons of waste, producing 44 million megawatt-hours (MWH) of electricity and 61 million MWH of heat, or enough power to keep 13 million people wired and another 13 million warm. (See related story: "Waste Wattage: Cities Aim to Flush Heat Energy Out of Sewers.")

And more waste-to-energy projects are starting up, or are on the way. One market research firm says the EU's tightening standards on waste are a key driver behind world growth in WTE that it says will accelerate in the next five years, with 250 new plants and installed capacity on track to increase 21 percent by 2016. Ireland, which opened its first WTE plant in County Meath in 2011, is already expanding its capacity and more proposals are being debated. Several projects recently have been approved in the United Kingdom, including a modernistic WTE facility in the countryside between York and Harrowgate. It's not clear, though, if the Allerton Park energy recovery park will go forward, since the government withdrew £65 million in waste infrastructure credits for the controversial project earlier this year. (See related story: "Whisky a Go Go: Can Scotland's Distillery Waste Boost Biofuels? ")

In Copenhagen, the Amager Bakke plant also saw its share of controversy. Back in late 2011, city officials initially rejected the slick-looking, slope-topped facility—the design of hot Danish architect Bjarke Ingels—because of concerns that it wasn't environmentally friendly enough. But the utility, Amager Resource Center (ARC), overcame those objections. A key was the improvement compared to the existing 40-year-old waste-to-energy (WTE) plant that housed two generators, one that produced 20 MW and another that generated 9 MW. (See related story: "Can Nuclear Waste Spark an Energy Solution?")

While the new plant will increase carbon-dioxide emissions by 43 percent—from 140,000 tons a year to 200,000 tons—ARC says new technologies will make the plant 25 percent more efficient than the old one. In other words, it says, 3 kilos of incinerated waste will keep a light bulb burning for five hours instead of four. "It's not about size, it's about how you use it," said ARC spokeswoman Signe Josephsen. (See related story: "While Energy Policy Falters, Plastic Bag Laws Multiply.")

The burning of trash for power is hardly a new technology, but the current state-of-the-art plants—which use the heat created from the garbage inferno to make steam for heat or to run turbines for electricity—use expensive filters that scrub the flue gases to greatly reduce the amount of dangerous pollutants, such as dioxins, that are emitted. Because about half of the CO2 emitted is from biowaste, not fossil fuels, proponents say the plants are partly powered by renewable fuel, making them cleaner than fossil-fuel plants.

But the main argument in favor of WTE plants is that if the tons of trash that they burn had instead been buried in landfills, the decomposition would have led to greater atmospheric harm through the release of methane, a greenhouse gas that is 25 times more potent than CO2 as a heat-trapping gas. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, greenhouse gas emissions from landfills are two to six times higher than those generated from plants that burn waste, when measured per unit of electricity generated. Moreover, metals that would have been buried are instead easily plucked from the ashes and recycled. That's one big reason why in April the Center for American Progress (CAP), a progressive think tank based in Washington, D.C., issued a report urging the United States to build more WTE plants to help cut the nation's greenhouse gas emissions. (There are currently just 26 in the United States, which has 56 times the population of Denmark, where there are 30 operating WTE facilities.) (See related interactive map: "The Global Electricity Mix.")

Not everyone, however, thinks incinerators are such a hot idea. Nearby communities often fear air pollution from smokestacks and traffic impacts from trash hauling to the facilities. Some green groups, including Brussels-based Friends of the Earth Europe (FOEE), fear that burning trash for power stunts efforts to encourage recycling. "The only way to reduce CO2 emissions when it comes to waste policy is by preventing, reusing, and recycling," said Ariadna Rodrigo, a FOEE resource use campaigner.

But WTE proponents argue that extracting power from waste goes hand-in-hand with recycling efforts. "There does not have to be a choice between the two solutions. We're very much into recycling," said Rasmus Meyer, also of ARC. Moreover, CEWEP claims, 100 percent recycling is not possible. Some materials degrade after repeated recycling, some are too filthy (diapers, vacuum cleaner bags), some are too mixed to be sorted, and there's no demand for some recycled products.

And, to be sure, countries that are the biggest users of waste power tend to have very impressive recycling rates, too. Germany produces more waste power than any European country—a total of 26 MWH in 2010—and it recycles 62 percent of its municipal solid waste, while incinerating 37 percent of it. Denmark, meanwhile, recycles 43 percent of its rubbish and burns 54 percent of it. Across the EU, on average, 40 percent of urban refuse is recycled and 23 percent is used for energy. Meanwhile, the U.S. manages to recycle just 23 percent of its garbage. Nevertheless, Rodrigo insists, incineration still places inherent limits on recycling, because once a plant is built it has to operate for 20 to 30 years to recoup its investment. "And you still have to feed that monster."

The dash for trash-power has also resulted in a thriving pan-European import-export market for rubbish. "Waste is a commodity, and there's a well-functioning waste market in Europe today," said Pål Spillum, head of the waste recovery and hazardous waste section of the Norwegian Environment Agency. Norway, particularly its capital city Oslo, was spotlighted earlier this year when Britain's Guardian newspaper and the New York Times both ran stories about how it was shipping in trash from Britain, Ireland and Sweden to help power its WTE plants.

Several other countries, particularly Germany, import even more rubbish than Norway.The size of this market, however, is hard to determine. The import and export of nonhazardous waste doesn't have to be reported, so the European Environmental Agency has no statistics available. Spillum maintains that Norway, which burned 1.3 million tons of refuse for energy in 2011, exports more waste than it imports. In 2011, it imported about 90,000 tons of nonhazardous waste, but it exported 1.7 million tons. Overall, Norway has 17 WTE plants. The two in Oslo burn about 410,000 tons of waste a year, and provide 840 GWh of heat—enough to heat 30 percent of the city's 300,000 households and to provide an additional 160 GWh of electricity. (See related story: "A Fuel That Doesn't Go to Waste.")

Does all that shipping of garbage, and the resulting CO2 emissions from transportation, undercut the green edge that WTE plants have over landfills? A 2011 study by Swedish consulting firm Profu looked at six Northern European countries-Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium-that were big consumers of rubbish from Eastern Europe. It concluded that WTE was still a net benefit for the atmosphere each metric ton of municipal waste burned for energy prevented the emission from landfills of more than 600 kilograms of CO2 equivalent.

One possible drawback, in the United States at least, could be high construction costs. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, was driven to the brink of bankruptcy over a $345 million debt largely racked up by the costs of overhauling and expanding a power-generating incinerator. But the CAP study says that, by and large, WTE plants in the United States, which could cost between $100 million to $300 million to build, depending on size, should be able to recoup building costs from fees and from the sale of power to the grid, as well as from the sale of recovered recyclable metals.

Meanwhile, back in Denmark, the Amager Bakke incinerator—at 80 meters (260 feet), it will be one of the tallest buildings in Copenhagen—aims to stand as an example of WTE potential. Another unique feature of the Amager Bakke incinerator and ski slope—if the technology's ready—will be a smokestack that belches out a giant smoke ring each time a ton of carbon dioxide is emitted. "It's a way to demonstrate to the people of Copenhagen that they are responsible for the environment," ARC's Meyer says. And if too many Copenhageners pay heed to the 200,000 smoke rings wafting over their city each year and deeply cut back on their waste streams? Well, there's still plenty of Eastern European garbage available to keep the fires beneath Amager Bakke's snow-covered slope fully stoked.

This story is part of a special series that explores energy issues. For more, visit The Great Energy Challenge.

Watch the video: 7 Largest Crocodiles Ever Recorded (May 2022).


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