Friday, June 26, 2015


Countryside near Newgrange

There is something about ancient tombs and artifacts that appeals to me.  I like thinking about who these humans were and what they may have thought, and I like the mysteries--the fact we will never know for sure what these cultures were like. 

Visiting Ireland, we, of course, had to go to Newgrange, the megalithic tomb near Drogheda.  Newgrange is a huge passage tomb that dates to about 3,200 B.C. [I've  corrected my dates twice, because the guides at the site and different authorities give differing dates. It's safest to simply say that Newgrange is anywhere from 500 to 1000 years older than Stonehenge and centuries older than the Pyramids of Giza.]

There are many other tombs scattered throughout the Irish countryside and in Europe, many of which have never been excavated. Often, they were built upon by successive generations.

We visited another tomb near Newgrange as well, Knowth, which is also a passage tomb, but because it is structurally unsafe, we weren't allowed to enter. 

Kevin at Knowth

Knowth is the largest passage tomb. It ncludes many satellite tombs and contains more than one-third of the megalithic art known in Europe. This stone may be an ancient calendar.

A calendar? This kerbstone at Knowth is one that lines the outside of the tomb.

While Knowth was fascinating, we especially enjoyed Newgrange, because we not only got to enter it, squeezing through a narrow part of the passage, taking care to duck our heads, we also got to witness a recreation of what happens on the day of the winter solstice when the sun enters the passage and  gradually lights up the center. It was almost as eerie and exciting as the real thing, clustered into the tomb with 23 other people! (No photos allowed inside, unfortunately.)

View of Newgrange

Newgrange entrance

The entrance stone at Newgrange may indicate the six days that the sun enters the tomb, the three days preceding the winter solstice, the day of the solstice, and the two days after. The three spirals (showing the passage of the sun?) before the line pointing to the entrance are moving one direction, while the two swirls on the other side move in the opposite direction. The sun enters the tomb through the window above the door. 

Entrance stone at Newgrange (Line pointing to entrance is barely visible in photo.)
We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of Newgrange and Knowth and highly recommend them to other visitors.

View from the top of Knowth tomb.

Next: Drogheda and our wonderful hosts

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