6 Dec

Bright and early last weekend, I embarked on a day trip with my family, who were visiting Dublin for the week. Our family does not often do well with car rides or road trips. So when my dad said that he had planned a “fun day trip” for us all, we were a bit weary. Our destination: Newgrange. Newgrange is located in County Meath, about an hours drive from Dublin. The prehistoric monument is a distinct archeological wonder. The mammoth round is built of earth and stone, topped with a large grassy mound. On the outside, white quartz and round cobblestones decorate the building. The prehistoric monument can be dated back to 3200 BC, during the Neolithic period. If this is accurate, then Newgrange is older than both Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramids. The people that built Newgrange were a farming community that moved to the area to live off of the Boyne Valley. Newgrange was built in a specific manner. The round, circular mound has a stone passageway and a chamber inside. The passage is about 60 feet in length. At the end of the passageway, there are three small areas, or chambers. Inside the building, detailed engravings and artwork cover the walls. It is believed that the space was used for religious purposes. The passageway is aligned with the rising sun.  During the winter solstice, when the sun rises the chamber is encompassed with light for seventeen minutes. The sun enters through an area known as the “roof box”. Historians believe that the sun played a vital role in Neolithic religion. This may have been used to interpret calendars at the time.  There are similar tombs nearby: Knowth and Dowth. These have not been excavated. It is believed that the tombs were all related to one another in a series and may have been used for similar purposes. In the 17th century, archaeologists uncovered Newgrange. Excavations and experiments took place for centuries. Findings included jewelry, artwork and decayed bodies of both animals and humans. In 1970, the building was renovated and remodeled. While the interior remained the same, the outside was cleaned and refurbished. It is unknown how the original builders of Newgrange were able to transport the 200,000-pound rock slabs that were used to construct the building. While there is still much that is unknown about Newgrange and the Neolithic people, great strides have been made in learning more over the years. The museum that is associated with Newgrange has interactive activities and a wide variety of models to give insight and explain many theories and ideas associated with Newgrange. Newgrange is a large tourist attraction, taking in thousands every year. It is definitely worth a trip if you have yet to experience it.


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