Newgrange is one of the best examples in Ireland and in Western Europe, of a type of monument known to archaeologists as a passage-grave or passage-tomb. It was constructed around 3200BC, according to the most reliable Carbon 14 dates available from archaeology. This makes it more than 600 years older than the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, and 1,000 years more ancient than Stonehenge.
Newgrange was built in a time when there was only stone, not metal, used as an everyday material for tools and weapons. In 1993, Newgrange and its sister sites Knowth and Dowth were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of their outstanding cultural legacy.
On the Winter Solstice, the light of the rising sun enters the roofbox at Newgrange and penetrates the passage, shining onto the floor of the inner chamber. The sunbeam illuminates the chamber of Newgrange for just 17 minutes.
A survey of the roofbox, passage and chamber of Newgrange by Dr. Jon Patrick in 1972 found that the Winter Solstice orientation of the site was an original feature, and that they were sophisticated constructions, intended to maximise the accuracy and length of the beam entering the chamber.
Newgrange has some stunning examples of megalithic art, including the beautifully carved entrance stone, kerbstone 1, and kerbstone 52. The famous triple spiral is featured on the entrance stone and in the chamber.
The following is from Knowth.com
The Megalithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange was built about 3200 BC. The kidney shaped mound covers an area of over one acre and is surrounded by 97 kerbstones, some of which are richly decorated with megalithic art. The 19 metre long inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. It is estimated that the construction of the Passage Tomb at Newgrange would have taken a work force of 300 at least 20 years.
The passage and chamber of Newgrange are illuminated by the winter solstice sunrise. A shaft of sunlight shines through the roof box over the entrance and penetrates the passage to light up the chamber. The dramatic event lasts for 17 minutes at dawn on the Winter Solstice and for a few mornings either side of the Winter Solstice.
The Central Bank of Ireland have issued a Newgrange Coin Set. Newgrange is the theme for the 2008 uncirculated Coin Set, the sixth and final mint set in the ‘Heritage of Ireland’ series. The set was officially launched on 21st December 2007 following the Winter Solstice at Newgrange. The cost of the Newgrange Coin Set is €24 plus postage. More…
Megalithic mounds such as Newgrange entered Irish mythology as sídhe or fairy mounds. Newgrange was said to be the home of Oenghus, the god of love. The Passage Tomb at Newgrange was re-discovered in 1699 by the removal of material for road building. A major excavation of Newgrange began in 1962; the original facade of sparkling white quartz was rebuilt using stone found at the site.
Newgrange has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and attracts 200,000 visitors per year. There is no direct access to the Passage Tomb at Newgrange, access is by guided tour from the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre located close to the village of Donore, Co. Meath. The last tour of Newgrange is 90 minutes before closing time of the Visitor Centre. Groups of 15 or more must book in advance.
Images of Newgrange with the option to display larger views. Twelve Standing Stones survive of what may have been an arc at the front of the mound or possibly a complete circle of about 35 stones surrounding the mound.
Images from inside the chamber at Newgrange including the tri-spiral design on orthostat C10 which is probably the most famous Irish Megalithic symbol. It is often referred to as a Celtic design, but it was carved at least 2500 years before the Celts reached Ireland. At 12 inches in diameter the tri-spiral design is quite small in size, less than one-third the size of the tri-spiral design on the entrance stone.
The Gavrinis passage tomb in Brittany is remarkable similar to Newgrange. The cairn is about 5500 years old, it is 60 metres in diameter and covers a passage and chamber which is lined with elaborately engraved stones.
The passage and chamber at Newgrange are clearly aligned to the rising sun at the Winter Solstice, Gavrinis is aligned in the same direction but the chamber is not illuminated like Newgrange at the Winter Solstice. Perhaps the ancient Irish were better engineers than the ancient Bretons. Aubrey Burl comments “Looking from Stone 19, at the left-hand entrance to the chamber, towards Stone 1, the bearing is 128°, almost perfectly in line with the midwinter sunrise. The main axis of the passage is 134° towards the low-lying Arzon peninsula and the orientation is close to that of the major southern moonrise. It has been calculated that the two alignments, one solar, the other lunar, intersect halfway down the passage level with Stone 7, the white quartz slab whose undecorated surface may have been illuminated by the light of the rising sun and moon.”
Wikipedia Encyclopedia has an excellent section on Newgrange
Newgrange (Irish: Sí an Bhrú) is a passage tomb of the Brú na Bóinne complex in County Meath, Ireland. It is one of the most famous prehistoric sites in the world, and indeed the most famous of all Irish prehistoric sites. Newgrange was built in such a way that at dawn on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, a narrow beam of sunlight for a very short time illuminates the floor of the chamber at the end of the long passageway.
The massive complex of Newgrange was originally built between c. 3100 and 2900 BC, meaning that it is approximately 5,000 years old. According to Carbon-14 dates, it is more than 500 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and predates Stonehenge by about 1,000 years.
In the Neolithic period, Newgrange continued as a focus of some ceremonial activity. New monuments added to the site included a timber circle to the south-east of the main mound and a smaller timber circle to the west. The eastern timber circle consisted of five concentric rows of pits. The outer row contained wooden posts. The next row of pits had clay linings and was used to burn animal remains. The three inner rows of pits were dug to accept the animal remains. Within the circle were post and stake holes associated with Beaker pottery and flint flakes. The western timber circle consisted of two concentric rows of parallel postholes and pits defining a circle 20 m in diameter.
A concentric mound of clay was constructed around the southern and western sides of the mound and covered a structure consisting of two parallel lines of post and ditches that had been partly burnt. A free-standing circle of large stones was constructed encircling the mound. Near the entrance, 17 hearths were used to set fires. These structures at Newgrange are generally contemporary with a number of Henges known from the Boyne Valley, at Newgrange Site A, Newgrange Site O, Dowth Henge and Monknewtown Henge. You can read more on their WEB Site at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newgrange.
This article was suggested and most of the data contributed by Michele Kerrigan, Chief Executive for GROW in Ireland, which is a mental health organisation. Michele is also working on her Masters in Voluntary and Community Sector.
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The following is an Irish Blessing: