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Newgrange
Passage-Tomb
Co. Meath, Eire (Republic of Ireland)

August 1997 E-Zine Issue

by Treasa 1997


All photographs Diego Meozzi

Located in Co. Meath, Eire

Nearest town: Drogheda.
Nearest village: Slane.
Discovered accidentally in 1669,
Newgrange was restored between 1962 and 1975

Before the Pyramids of Egypt were built, before the druids danced at Stonehenge, way, way back before the first written history of man was recorded—probably around the same time as the invention of the wheel—the Irish were constructing amazing edifices known today as "dolmens." These monuments seem to serve the same sorts of functions as the ancient pyramids of the Maya—that is they served as burial chambers and altars, and were used by the Druids in their religious rites—functioning as huge calendars made of stone.

One of the finest examples of these is Newgrange, which is approximately 25 kilometers north of Dublin, in the religious complex of the Boyne Valley. This site was discovered quite by accident in 1669 when workmen were removing material to construct a road. Newgrange is an engineering marvel. It still provides accurate timekeeping to within seconds of the correct time, which is quite a feat after 5,000 years! I doubt that any modern timepiece—even a Rolex— will still be ticking 5,000 years from now.

Early Mythology

According to early Irish mythology, Newgrange was not only the burial place of the kings of Tara, but also the home of a race of supernatural beings known as the "Tuatha de Danainn": the people of the goddess, Danu. Newgrange was also said to be the house of the God/Chieftain Dagda. Dagda succeeded Lugh (whose name means "The Shining One" and for whom the feast of "Lammas" on August 1st is celebrated) as ruler of Ireland and reigned around the same time as Israel’s King Solomon. He became known as the greatest of the De Danainn. Dagda is styled Lord of Knowledge and Sun of all the Sciences, and is reputed to have ruled Ireland for 80 years, as well as to have been the father of the famous Brigit, woman of wisdom and goddess of poetry.

More than 30 prehistoric monuments: standing stones, barrows and enclosures, were also discovered in the same three square mile area of the Boyne Valley. Because of its proximity to Tara, the Court of the High King of Ireland, Newgrange and its sister sites at Knowth and Dowth, were presumed to be a kind of "Valley of the Kings" for the ruling chieftains of ancient Ireland. Upon further research, though, it became clear that, although the mounds were used for burial purposes, this was a later use of what was once a series of temples administered by the Irish druids.

Its Gaelic name — "Grian Uaigh" or "Cave of the Sun." — gives us a clue as to the true nature of Newgrange. In decoding the hieroglyphs which cover it, archaeologist Martin Brennan discovered an engraved message from one of its ancient administrators, Amairgen, the Chief Poet of the Milesians.

"Who but I knows the secret of the unhewn dolmen? Who is he who announceth the ages of the Moon? And who, the place where falleth the Sunset?"

--Amairgen Leabhar Gabala

The Milesians are believed to have arrived in Ireland from Spain around 1000 BC - the time of Solomon - conquering, then replacing the "Tuatha de Danainn." dynasty.

The Real Purpose

Brennan discovered the symbols are not, as some of his more ignorant colleagues assumed, "megalithic doodles," but meaningful and accurate astronomical records. They constitute a kind of calendar the Irish would have used on a daily basis. A calendar so accurate, in fact, that seconds can be calculated from the stones.

Above the entrance passage of Newgrange is a "roof-box," which precisely aligns with the rising sun at the winter solstice of December 21st, so that the rays touch the ground at the very center of the burial chamber for about 20 minutes. Many of the stones lining the 62-foot entrance passage are richly decorated.

Its sister sites, Knowth and Dowth, were also used as alignment monuments and calendars: Knowth is aligned to the Vernal and Autumnal Equinoxes while Dowth is aligned to the mid-summer sunrise, giving an accurate reckoning of the four sun-markers of the year. The Celtic festivals would have been determined from the lunation cycle which is visible to observers of the moon, each festival being held upon the full-moon. The twelve stones surrounding Newgrange point to the solsticial and equinoctial sunrises and sunsets, and also align to Knowth and Dowth. Dowth, being aligned to the midsummer-sunrise, is associated with darkness for midsummer marks the failing of the light towards winter. The mid-winter sunset also illuminates one of the chambers , making it a monument to the return of the light.

Newgrange was originally built about 3200 BC—making it the OLDEST known stone structure on Earth!

Vital Statistics

Newgrange consists of a vast stone and turf mound about 280 feet in diameter and 44 feet high, containing a passage leading to a burial chamber. Outside the base, 12 large boulders up to 8 feet high form a ring about 340 feet in diameter. The base of the mound is retained by 97 large stones, lying horizontally, many of which are covered with beautifully carved designed including the triple snake spiral, concentric circles and arcs, triangles and cup marks, all consistent with the symbolism of regeneration.

The chamber inside the mound measures 21 feet 6 inches x 17 feet, has three recesses and a roof reaching to a high of 20 feet above the floor. In the recesses there are three massive stone basins which presumably had some ritual use.

Figure 2: Newgrange Cave Drawing

The facade of the mound and its entrance have been restored by a team from University College Dublin but the reconstruction was difficult. When the mound was discovered, the rock face had collapsed and there was no indication of how the stones -- a combination of rectangular white stones and larger round granite ones—had been arranged. The rocks were arranged randomly and two of the best examples of cave drawings were placed in front of the entrance.

The cantilevered roof is designed to shed water and has prevented any water from leaking through it during the last 5,000 years. Think about how long 5,000 years is. The pyramids are about 3,000 years old! Our condo association would appreciate this one. We’ve already sued the builder and spent thousands upon thousands of dollars repairing leaky roofs in our complex and these buildings are less than SEVEN (7) years old!

Figure 3: Knowth               

Near Newgrange are two groups of smaller burial mounds. Knowth is pictured here; the other, Dowth, was ransacked during the 18th century and has not been opened to the public. Archaeological works is ongoing at Knowth where the many mounds (approximately 20) are relatively well preserved.

Treasa can be contacted , directly by e-mail at: tarot1@cox.net

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