By indexer
164 days ago

Newgrange, Ireland

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Some 700 years before the main stones were erected at Stonehenge, and even longer before the Pyramids were built in Egypt, a massive tomb was being built in Ireland that can still be seen today. This is at Newgrange, in a loop of the River Boyne between Drogheda and Slane, about 25 miles northwest of Dublin.

The Newgrange ancient monument

A grassy mound, about 40 feet high, stands on top of a hill with extensive views over the surrounding countryside. The mound, which is roughly circular in shape, is more than 260 feet across and occupies an area more than an acre in size. Inside, a stone-flanked passage leads more than 60 feet to a cross-shaped chamber with a corbelled roof, 19 feet high, that has remained watertight for more than 5000 years.

The function of the monument appears to have been that of a communal burial chamber for cremated remains, although those of only five individuals have been discovered to date. There may have been many others that were removed at some time since their original deposit.

Surrounding the mound on the outside is a ring of 97 massive “kerbstones” that are notable for the intricate carvings that they display, in particular the interlocking spirals and lozenges that are typical of Neolithic artwork at such sites. The meaning of these patterns can only be guessed at, but they could represent the beliefs of their creators in some sort of afterlife, with the spirals being maps of some kind. The carvings on the stone marking the entrance to the passageway are particularly intricate.

An unwelcome restoration?

Something that is bound to strike the visitor is the bright white vertical wall on either side of the passage entrance, which is clearly very modern. This was built as part of a restoration project during excavation of the site between 1962 and 1975, and it has aroused a good deal of criticism. The restorers’ belief that the white quartzite stones found at the site were the remains of an original retaining wall have been challenged, not least because, in order to resist the lateral thrust of the mound, the restorers had to use concrete and steel reinforcements, which were clearly not available to the original builders!

During his excavations, Professor Michael O’Kelly of Cork noticed a slot above the entrance that was covered by a granite block that seemed to be designed to slide across it like a shutter. Professor O’Kelly nicknamed it “the roofbox”. There was a local legend that the slot was aligned with the sun at the summer solstice, but Professor O’Kelly did not see how this could be. Instead, he stood inside the central chamber as the sun rose at the winter solstice and was amazed to see how a shaft of light poured though the slot and there was enough light, for just a few minutes, to illuminate the chamber.

Visiting Newgrange

Being such a special site, access to Newgrange is limited in that visitors can only view it as members of a guided tour, starting from the Brú na Bóinne Visitors Centre on the other side of the river Boyne. It is possible to experience the Winter solstice moment, but only if you win a lottery and are lucky enough for the day not to be cloudy. Only 100 places are available and it is usual for tens of thousands of people to apply!

Newgrange is the most impressive of a number of other Neolithic structures in the area, including tombs, henges and standing stones. This was clearly a site of huge ritual significance to the early settlers of this area; for example, the tomb at nearby Knowth contains one-third of all the pieces of megalithic art known in Western Europe.

Many parallels can be drawn between the Newgrange site and that at Stonehenge, not least the extensive evidence of early occupation with so many individual sites in the area, but the visitor experience at Newgrange is likely to be more satisfactory, given that it is far less well known and therefore not overrun with fellow tourists.
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AnceAne Very beautiful and interesting article. Never heard before and thank you for sharing it
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indexer @AnceAne Thanks!
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fortune Sounds like an interesting place to visit. I also did not hear about this place before
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soncee That's beautiful artikle
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carmen3521 Good place!
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Justin Supeeer, very interesting
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