Blog 5

2 Nov

Today I went to Newgrange with UCD’s international office. I didn’t know what to expect; all I knew was that it was a common tourist attraction, so I thought I’d tag along. I did not realize that the structure was so incredibly old—5,000 years old, even older than the pyramids or Stonehenge!

The tour guide pointed out that whenever he mentions the Stone Age, most people immediately think of a barbaric civilization of low intelligence; yet the structure of Newgrange proves quite the opposite. Just the base stone slabs alone weigh one to five tons, so it would have taken many men an immense amount of strength and time in order to set them in place. The act to organize such efforts points to a civilized society with some sort of head or leader; without such a leader, this amount of cooperation would be quite difficult. In addition, the placement of the three inserts in the chamber seems to prove that they were placed prior to the walls and ceiling structures, for it would have been quite difficult and dangerous to carve out the inserts or to carry the slabs up inside the narrow chamber. This type of planning involves such critical thinking that disproves the “low intelligence” idea of the Stone Age people. Also, the structure itself argues for their cleverness: the structure is built using corbels, which are stones placed overlapping each other without mortar to bind them (O’Kelly, Claire. “Description of Newgrange.” Newgrange.com/description. Web.). Such design has been used for millennia, even among the ancient Greeks. The tour guide added that the mound was built with alternating layers of large stones and small stones so that the small stones would act as shock absorbers and lessen any impact. Thus, these ancient people knew how to build a most stable and lasting structure, even lasting 5,000 years later!

While historians aren’t certain of the structure’s original purpose, many consider it to be a temple to celebrate the sun, since the passageway lines up exactly with the East. No matter what its use, I find it fascinating. The fact that it is one of the oldest monuments and yet has not needed preservation is astonishing. While many ancient caves must be altered because of mineral build-up or safety precaution, Newgrange does not; it is only cleaned of some slight algae.

I was so inspired that such “pre-historic” people worked together and built something enduring. Surely if they did that without wheels, horses, or stones, then I can complete my own daunting tasks!

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