Daytrip to Newgrange

1 Dec

Today, I was part of a small group that went on a day trip to the historic Newgrange temple. What initially interested me in going there was the fact that Newgrange is a monument that was built over 5,000 years ago, making it older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Giza; something that old was bound to have something historically significant toward the Irish culture. To say the least, I was absolutely correct in thinking so.

The first aspect of Newgrange that I observed was its sheer size for an ancient tomb; the tour guide told us the dimensions of Newgrange, saying it covered over 4,500 square meters of ground. This tomb, because of its size and shape, reminded me of the cairns built on the western coast of Ireland. Both the cairns and Newgrange were dome shaped, housing religious ceremonies on or around the cultural site. Unlike the cairns, however, Newgrange was able to be entered as its inner temple recorded the sun’s movements.

Newgrange was built in a very conscious manner, with its architects setting the foundation with the tomb’s entrance facing the sun’s arc of movement throughout the day; this way, during the sunrise, a peak of light would enter through the entrance and shine into the temple. Reasons for this architectural achievement are mostly unknown; however, what is known is that the ancient inhabitants of Ireland that built Newgrange worshipped the sun and its movement throughout the day and throughout the year.

Ireland’s ancient worshippers were also keen on writing. Their form of writing was drawing a series of spirals indicating a word, phrase, or idea; these spirals are known as Ogham spirals, and they were found carved into many stones throughout the site. These spirals were extremely fascinating to observe, as it proves how literature was preserved over 5,000 years ago. Looking at these Ogham spirals was like entering into the carvers’ lifetimes, observing how they lived and worshipped. Needless to say, they were everywhere, and I couldn’t walk around the site without being immersed into the culture of the ancient Irish peoples.

Although the Newgrange site was relatively small compared to the larger monuments of the present day, I absorbed as much culture from that tomb as I did from the Duomo in Florence. The tomb had a very condensed amount of culture radiating from it, with the tour guide indicating each set of Ogham spirals and simulating the rise of the sun from inside the inner room. As the guide showed us where remains of the dead would be laid to rest, I couldn’t help but be struck in awe by the amount of effort and intelligence that the ancient Irish community had to have in order to create such a seemingly simple but overwhelmingly durable tomb like Newgrange.

-John Miranda


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