Newgrange is a Neolithic structure in the Boyne Valley, County Meath, which was built around 3200 B.C.E. - making it older than the Egyptian Pyramids and Stonehenge. Located less than an hour drive from Dublin, it is the most important ancient monument in Ireland. The structure occupies an area of around 1 acre, has a passage and chambers inside, which are aligned with the rising sun of the Winter Solstice. Ancients called the monument “Síd in Broga” or “Brug Mac ind Óc” and it was constructed by ancient builders and astronomers.
The UNESCO site
Newgrange became a designated World Heritage Site in 1993. While Archeologists categorize the structure as a passage tomb, however, for it’s constructors, it was the place that protected souls of their ancestors and served as a symbol of the triumph of life. The monument stayed untouched tor centuries and was accessed again in 1699. The myths, written by Irish monks and scholars a thousand years ago, tell us truly fascinating stories of origin.
As per the legend, the first owner of the structure was a druid Elcmar, who was a husband of the Goddess of the River Boyne - Boann. Dagda, who was a leader among the Tuath Dé (“tribe of the Gods” - a supernatural, ancient race in Celtic mythology), met and seduced Boann, who became pregnant. Since the leader had great powers, he caused the sun to remain still for nine months and the divine, miraculous child Aongus was born on the same day. The child became the God of love for the tribe and took ownership of the Newgrange.
The best time to visit the site is around the winter solstice. The great ancient astronomers designed Newgrange so that the light would first penetrate the roof, travel the 19 metre passage and hit the chamber in an early morning. As the sun rises, the light becomes wider and the chamber area is beautifully illuminated. Newgrange is considered the World’s oldest solar observatory and one of the most fascinating instances in Western Europe of passage-tomb monuments. The site attracts around 200,000 visitors each year, so be sure to arrive early in the morning.
The ancient monument is enclosed by a circle of massive stones. There are currently twelve stones standing today (same as first recorded in 1699) with an average distance of 9 meters between them. It was calculated, that for the site to be fully surrounded by a stone circle, it must have been not less than 36 stones. Researchers believe that a stable community must have lived in the area, who constructed such huge structures. Great astronomers, skilled stone masons with considerable wealth, who devoted their time to raise these great monuments.
Researchers say, that stones were brought from the County Wicklow Mountains, located more than 100 km south and from County Down - Slieve Croob Mountains - around 100 km north of the site. The advanced constructions must have located and moved the stones, likely, through the Irish Sea and then transport via land to the area. As per J.O’Kelly, there are 97 kerb stones, all weighting more than a tonne. Since there is no written record on how the monument was built or the exact purpose, all that is clear, is that the inhabitants of the region spent at least 30 years building the structure, perhaps even more, and that certainly it was a very important ritual centre. Some researchers believe that it was built as a religious structure, while others think it was a place of worship of some kind of astronomically-based belief.
A quick summary of the ancient site
Justina Janeliunaite (author) on June 18, 2020:
Thank you, Linda. Beautiful, mythical place. Have a great day.
Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 17, 2020:
I've wanted to visit Newgrange ever since I first heard about it. Thank you very much for sharing the interesting information about the site.
Justina Janeliunaite (author) on June 17, 2020:
Thank you for your comment. It's a fascinating, ancient monument in Ireland. Worth a visit if interested in Irish history, Celtic legends.
Liz Westwood from UK on June 16, 2020:
I had not heard of Newgrange before. This is an interesting article.