Newgrange

26 Sep

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Upon entering our Irish Life and Cultures class I was incredibly eager to learn about the land which my great grandparents and beyond once called home. During our first lecture we discussed so many interesting historical topics that I at times became somewhat overwhelmed. Once removed from the classroom, trying to distinguish (without notes) between the many ages, inhabitants and societies was a challenge. However, one of the most prominent pieces of information that undeniably remained glued to the forefront of my mind was that of Newgrange. After our class I went home and decided to conduct some of my own research, and was again intrigued by the ancient structure while completing our reading assignment.

Newgrange interests me for a number of reasons.For starters, its construction dates further back than both Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt. Archaeologists believe that Newgrange may have taken a force of 300 laborers at least 20 years to construct. While I have yet to visit this remarkable structure, I can only imagine and dissect photos in order to fathom how incredible it truly is. This passage tomb, or often referred to as an ancient temple, was created by a farming community in the Boyne Valley in order to worship and bury societal dignitaries.

As if its size isn’t alone noteworthy, my favorite aspect of Newgrange is the actual passage chamber and its sophisticated design. As explained by historians and archaeologists alike, the chamber was designed to allow a small shaft of light in to illuminate the chamber–all in accordance with the timing of the winter solstice. This remarkable display occurs at dawn on the winter solstice, lasting a short 17 minutes. Many believe the design signifies the society’s observance that the dead are now embarking on a new journey, much like the rebirth of nature after winter months.

I believe that this concept is not only beautiful, but incredibly telling of how advanced and truly sophisticated its builders were. For such a large structure, the meticulous detail and astrological knowledge put into Newgrange is remarkable–especially when you consider it being built over 5000 years ago. It is often hard for we 21st century humans to fathom such concepts, as buildings, structures and monuments may be easily completed in as few as 2-5 years sometimes. The technologies we possess both help and hurt our intellect, as we need not consider the astrological calendar due to amenities such as electricity, heat and air conditioning. I am eager to visit Newgrange at some point during my term in Ireland, and have actually submitted an application to the visitation lottery for the upcoming winter solstice! Fingers crossed…

Photo: Google images

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