Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, near the village of Donore, County of Meath on the east coast of Ireland.
North of Dublin.
|Open:||Last Tour 90 minutes before closing time.|
|Classification:||Catacombs megalithic passage tomb.|
|Light:||electric, winter solstice sun.|
|As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.
|3200 BC||Newgrange built.|
|1699||re-discovered by the removal of material for road building.|
|1962||major excavation with the reconstruction of the white facade.|
|1993||inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.|
Newgrange is a megalithic tomb, more than 5,000 years old. This means it was built before the most famous Egyptian pyramids. And the amount of rocks which was moved is comparable.
Newgrange is a grave hill, an artificial hill built to inherit the remains of the dead. Such hills are common in this area, nearby are Knowth and Dowth, both are similar tombs. But Newgrange is the biggest of all those graves, with a diameter of about 100 m. But unlike in Egypt, this were not the graves of single persons, famous heroes, pharaohs or kings. The graves were supposedly used to bury the whole tribe.
The rites used at this time are unknown today. There are no written documents, not even hieroglyphs, at least none we understand today. But the common opinion is, that the place was used to bury the ash of the dead after they were cremated. This would allow to bury hundreds of people in the final chamber.
The tomb is built after a very simple idea. First big rocks were used to build three passages, going from the rim of the circle toward center. Huge rocks were raised up and coverd by ceiling plates, all without mortar. Then a circular wall was errected from white quartz rocks, which enlosed all three passages. It is surrounded by 97 kerbstones, many of which are decorated with megalithic art. At last the wall was filled with all sorts of rocks from the surroundings, and the passages covered by a round hill.
The reason why this is called a subterranea, are the three tomb passages. They are about equidistant which means they have an angle of 120° to each other. The whole hill is 100 m in diameter, the passages are about 35 m long, which means they do not reach the center and are not connected. The most importand passage has a north-south direction. It has a small opening above the entrance, the roof box, through which the winter solstice sun shines into the final chamber. This unique event lasts for 17 minutes at dawn from the 19th to the 23rd of December. This is the reason why this cave is called Uaimh na Gréine (The Cave of the Sun).
The whole area is covered with remains from this period. There are numerous foundations of (wooden) building around the hill. But all this ended thousands of years ago, and so the ruined remains of those ancestors were used for younger celtic legends. Megalithic tombs were called sídhe or fairy mounds. Newgrange was said to be the home of Oenghus, the god of love.