The most familiar role played by the Hill of Tara in Irish history is as the seat of the kings of Ireland until the 6th century. This role extended until the 12th century, albeit without its earlier splendor. Regardless, the significance of the Hill of Tara predates Celtic times, although it has not been shown that Tara was continuously important from the Neolithic to the 12th century.
Previous scholarly dispute over Tara's initial importance advanced as archaeologists identified pre-Celtic monuments and buildings dating back to the Neolithic period around 5,000 years ago. One of these structures, the Mound of the Hostages, has a short passage which is aligned with sunset on the true astronomical cross-quarter days of November 8 and February 4, the ancient Celtic festivals of Samhain and Imbolc. Most modern neopagans now celebrate these festivals a few days earlier on October 31 and February 1, respectively. The mound's passage is also too short to be as accurate as the others[vague] in providing alignments with the Sun; still, Martin Brennan, in The Stones of Time, states that the daily changes in the position of a 13-foot (4-m) long sunbeam are more than adequate to determine specific dates.
A theory that may predate the Hill of Tara's splendor before Celtic times is the legendary story naming the Hill of Tara as the capital of the Tuatha Dé Danann, pre-Celtic dwellers of Ireland. When the Celts established a seat in the hill, the hill became the place from which the kings of Meath ruled Ireland with godly status. Atop the hill stands a stone pillar that was the Irish Lia Fáil (Stone of Destiny) on which the High Kings of Ireland were crowned; legends suggest that the stone was required to roar three times if the chosen one was a true king (compare with the Scottish Lia Fail). Both the Hill of Tara as a hill and as a capital seems to have political and religious influence, which diminished since St. Patrick's time.
At one time, it was a capital offense to make a fire within sight of Tara.
A grave was found near the hill that is supposedly that of King Lóegaire, who was said to be the last pagan king of Ireland.
During the rebellion of 1798, United Irishmen formed a camp on the hill but were attacked and defeated by British troops on 26 May 1798 and the Lia Fáil was moved to mark the graves of the 400 rebels who died on the hill that day. In the 19th century, the Irish Member of Parliament Daniel O'Connell hosted a peaceful political demonstration on Hill of Tara in favour of repeal of the Act of Union which drew over 750,000 people, which indicates the enduring importance of the Hill of Tara.
During the turn of the 20th century the Hill of Tara was excavated by British Israelists who thought that the Irish were part of the Lost Tribes of Israel and that the hill contained the Ark of the Covenant.
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