Aug 16

New Grange

When it was discovered in the late 17th century, the rock facing of the mound of this passage tomb had collapsed. The shimmering white quartz, irregularly shaped, and the round dark granite stones, neither of which are local, were found at the site. Ninety-seven curbstones were also found.
The Entrance and Kerbstone
The Entrance and Kerbstone

Newgrange, built around 3,200 BCE and recently restored, is a great circular mound of earth and stone 250 feet in diameter encircled by a ring of standing stones. The interior is solid except for a single stone-lined and -capped passage 62 feet long and 3 feet wide which terminates close to the centre of the mound in main chamber with a corbelled vault 20 feet high and three recessed chambers.

The entrance, in front of which is a massive kerbstone (10 feet long, 4 feet high) carved with spirals and lozenges, incorporates a roof box which allows the sun, at sunrise on the morning of the winter solstice on December 21, to penetrate the full length of the interior passage all the way to the main chamber. A similar carefully calculated phenomenon is also found at Abu Simbel in Egypt.

The Spiral
The Spiral

The single spiral is the oldest and most recorded of these motifs. It has symbolized the concept of growth, expansion, and cosmic energy, depending on the culture in which it is used. To the ancient inhabitants of Ireland, the spiral was used to represent their sun.

Newgrange was said to have become the burial place of the high Kings of Tara. The funeral procession would cross the Boyne River Valley from the Hill of Tara to the mounds at Newgrange. Cremation was normal mode of burial. In each of the recesses of the cloverleaf chamber within the structure, a mammoth granite bowl would hold the ashes of the King.

Roofbox to allow light in

Roofbox to allow light in

Yet the purpose of Newgrange still remains a mystery. Portions of the site do not support the grave theory. The structure contains a roofbox, which allows the morning sun to shine into the chamber on the Winter Solstice. The winter solstice is the shortest day of the year and symbolised the 'return of light' or the start of a New Year. This is a function usually reserved for Temples and Newgrange is the only passage grave so far excavated which has this characteristic. Was the site a one-time temple that was later modified into a tomb?

During the original excavation, the remains of several individuals were found. Whether they were placed in burial or not remains a mystery. In fact, there are now few artefacts in the interior that would signify a grave, but the 'tomb' was open to access over the centuries so it is reasonable to assume that anything of value was taken long ago.

Inside Newgrange

Inside view of Newgrange

The walls of the recesses are carved with intricate, swirling designs evoking the sun, solar radiance, waves and perhaps the river. Perhaps the waved lines repeating signify a medium through which the spirits could travel or be transmitted to the next or other world. It is hard not to conjecture vivid imaginings when beholding the markings hidden for thousands of years within the great mound.

According to Van Danniken: "New Grange is an builders masterpiece, an astronomical study as well as a phenomenon in the area of material transport. The complex dates back to a time that the civilization in Egypt were not even begun, and the old cities of Ur, Babylon and Knossos (Crete) were yet to be build. Even the great stone circle of Stonehenge probably did not even exist when the unknown astronomers build the burial monument of New Grange."

A great site about Newgrange opens with the following text: "Built some 5,300 years ago, this holy place is one of the oldest built structures in the world. Known in Gaelic as Uaimh na Gréine, 'the cave of the sun', Newgrange is a pagan monument, with a vaulted roof and a cruciform design. Its history is interwoven with intriguing myths and the mysteries of its construction. The lore of its past calls ever-growing numbers of visitors to this chamber of light. Newgrange is at the centre of an entire Boyne valley megalithic culture and religious ritual."

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