Tag Archives: Neolithic passage tomb

The turning of the year at Newgrange

Newgrange Burial Mound.  Image Wiki Commons.

Newgrange Burial Mound. Image Wiki Commons.

Older than the Pyramids in Egypt and older than Stonehenge, Newgrange is the jewel in the crown of ancient sites in Ireland.  Engineered  about 3,000 B.C. Newgrange is an enormous  mound that covers an area of about an acre. Constructed by some of earth’s earliest  farming communities in the Boyne Valley, Newgrange, and similar mounds at Knowth and Dowth  are a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site. Originally thought to be a burial mound, Newgrange may have been an ancient temple. It is famed for the fact that for a few days around the time of the at the Winter Solstice, the long passage to the interior is lit by the rising sun. The exact date and time of the Winter Solstice varies slightly from year to year. In Ireland in  2013 it will occur today( 21, December  2013) at precisely 17:11 p.m.

Newgrange was engineered so that the narrow shaft of light from the rising sun at the solstice  would enter a narrow passage way and gradually lengthen and broaden so that a chamber , some 19 metres from the doorway would become fully lit. The phenomenon lasts for about 17 minutes.


Entrance to the mound with light box above. The spectacularly carved stones are a feature of Newgrange.  Image from Newgrange.com

While the Irish weather with cloudy conditions  is not always conducive to the witnessing of this phenomenon, today it happened and for the first time since 2007 when those lucky persons present in the chamber saw this wonderful spectacle.  There is an  image of this morning’s  event from  The Irish Times, here.

Newgrange is part of a series of mounds on a bend of the River Boyne in County Meath, Ireland.  Access throughout the year is via the Brú na Boinne visitor centre.  It is a magnificent attraction, often overlooked by visitors to these shores but well worth a visit.

Further information: World Heritage Ireland Brú na Boinne

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Filed under Celebrations in Ireland, Ireland, Irish Heritage, Irish History, Irish Traditions