Last Sunday I had the privilege of traveling to Newgrange, a Neolithic tomb almost 5000 years old. Newgrange is located in the Boyne Valley, a little more than 1 hour away from Dublin city. When we got to the visitors center, we were able to walk through the museum which explained the tombs use, it’s occupants, and general information about the Neolithic age. It also explained how the tomb was built.
Essentially Newgrange looks like a giant mound of earth, with grass on the top, and stone walls surrounding it. Inside, only about 1/3 of the tomb is open, accessible by a narrow passage wide enough for only one person. At the end of the passage is a larger area, with the openings on three sides where Neolithic people would have been buried. Standing inside of the monument it almost feels like an ancient cathedral, as the ceiling above is high, and the openings in front, and to the left and right form a Christian cross with the passageway, or even a Celtic cross, because the mound itself is circular.
A very unique aspect of Newgrange is it’s alignment with the sun. During the winter solstice, sunlight shines into the tomb, illuminating it, perhaps symbolizing the passing of those who are buried there to another world. Today in the tomb, visitors can experience the same phenomenon, except the tomb is lot by a 50 watt bulb, not the sun. When the lights are turned off, the tomb is almost pitch black, with very little light coming from outside. However when the bulb was turned on, light slowly crept in through the entrance, getting brighter as the sun would as it rises. It was a very eerie experience, but amazing at the same time. My trip to Newgrange is one that I will never forget.