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A Monument of Mystery

The fascinating ancient history of Ireland and the myriad of myths and legends that render it so vivid is encapsulated, almost literally, within a structure built over 5,000 years ago, before the pyramids of Egypt were even a twinkle in a Pharaoh’s eye.

Newgrange in County Meath is a gigantic prehistoric burial mound, built in the Neolithic era around 3,200BC. A huge earthen mound some 76 metres (250 feet) across and 12 metres (39 feet) high, the monument can be accessed by a narrow corridor leading to a central hallowed chamber and three smaller chambers, within which bones and other artefacts have been discovered. Much of the site is decorated with beautiful carvings of spirals and geometric patterns made by Ireland’s ancient people.

Most impressively, these ancestors built the monument to align with the rising of the sun on the winter solstice. At dawn on 21 December each year sunlight shines through a strategically-located hole and momentarily illuminates the central chamber. It’s believed that Newgrange had huge religious significance to the people who created it, connecting them to the natural and spiritual worlds.

Much of the site is decorated with beautiful carvings of spirals and geometric patterns made by Ireland’s ancient people. 

This iconic tomb was sealed from the world for millennia until, in 1699, a local landowner ordered labourers on his farm to excavate the mound. The entrance was discovered, and the world was soon captivated by this highly-complex, innovative structure. At the time, many refused to believe that the ancient people of Ireland had built the monument, with some giving credit to the invading Vikings or even the ancient Egyptians.

Today, Newgrange hosts daily historical tours which culminate in a re-enactment of the winter solstice, using high-powered electric lights to simulate the rising sun. In order to actually experience the solstice sunrise, visitors must enter an annual lottery from which 50 names are chosen to visit the site on and around that special day. A lucky trip for a fortunate few who get to see what our ancestors deemed so very sacred.

Source: Ireland's Ancient East, Failte Ireland, Tourism Ireland