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Newgrange, Ireland
Newgrange, Ireland
Newgrange ireland 750px.jpg

Newgrange (Irish Brú na Bóinne - translated as Mansion of the Boyne), located in County Meath is the most famous of all Irish prehistoric sites. It is known as a passage tomb. Originally built c. 3200 BC according to the most reliable Carbon 14 dates available, this makes it more than 600 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and 1,000 years more ancient than Stonehenge. Although it was built thousands of years ago, it lay lost for centuries until the late 17th century. It was much restored between 1962 and 1975, under the supervision of Prof Brian O'Kelly, Dept. of Archaeology, University College, Cork (now the National University of Ireland, Cork). It consists of a vast man-made stone and turf mound retained within a circle of huge kerbstones topped by a high inward-leaning wall of white quartz. A long passage leads to a cruciform (cross-shaped) chamber under the mound. Every year, at the time of the winter solstice, the sun shines directly along this passage into the chamber for about 15 minutes as it rises.

Spiral and lozenge motifs engraved on the magnificent entrance slab, "one of the most famous stones in the entire repertory of megalithic art" include a triple spiral motif, found only at Newgrange and repeated inside the chamber, are reminiscent of the triskelion motif of the Isle of Man, of ancient Sicily and of several passage tombs on the island of Anglesey in North Wales. The passage is long, over 60 feet, and leads to a cruciform burial chamber with a corbelled roof which rises steeply upwards to a height of nearly 20 feet.

Newgrange appears to have been built as a tomb. The alcoves in the cruciform chamber hold large stone basins into which were placed the bodies of those being laid to rest. The alignment with the sun is too precise to have occurred by chance. It is speculated that the sun formed an important part of the religious beliefs of the New Stone Age people who built it. The kerbstones around the outside of the passage tomb and some of the stones inside are engraved with patterns of spirals and zigzags. Formerly the mound was encircled by an outer ring of immense standing stones, of which there are twelve remaining.

Near Newgrange are many other passage tombs, the largest being Knowth and Dowth. These were all built around the same time as Newgrange.

Newgrange in Irish mythology

According to Irish mythology Newgrange was one of the sidhe or fairy-mounds where the Tuatha Dé Danann lived. It was built by the Dagda, but his son Aengus later tricked him out of it. According to some versions of the story, the hero Cúchulainn was born there.

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Last updated: 08-05-2005 12:32:28
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