Newgrange (Irish: Sí a Bhrú ) [1] is a prehistoric monument in County Meath, Ireland, located about one kilometer north of the River Boyne. [2] It was built during neolitiskaperioden around 3200 BC, making it older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids. [3] the site consists of a large circular mound with a stone passage and the inner chamber. The pile has a retaining wall at the front and is surrounded by engraved curb. There is no agreement on what the site was used for, but it has been speculated that it had religious significance – it is in line with the rising sun and its light floods the chamber on the winter solstice. It is the most famous monuments in the Neolithic Brú na Bóinne complex, along with similar passage tomb mounds of Knowth and Dowth, and as such is part of the Brú na Bóinne UNESCO World Heritage List. Newgrange also shares many similarities with other Neolithic structures in Western Europe, which Maeshowe in Orkney, Scotland [4] and Bryn Celli Ddu in Wales.

After its initial use, Newgrange was sealed for thousands of years, although it remained stories of Irish mythology and folklore. Antiquarians first began its study in the 17th century, and archaeological excavations took place at the site in the years that followed. Archaeologist Michael J. O’Kelly led the most extensive of these and even reconstructed façade of the site in the 1970s, a reconstruction that is controversial and contentious. [5] Newgrange today is a popular tourist attraction and, according to archaeologist Colin Renfrew, is ” undoubtedly considered as prehistorian as the great national monument of Ireland “and as one of the most important megalithic structures in Europe. [6]

physical Description

Mound and the passage grave

Newgrange monument consists mainly of a large hill, built of alternating layers of earth and stone, with grass growing on top and a reconstructed facade of zero growth white quartz stones studded at intervals with large rounded cobbles that cover a portion of the perimeter. The mound is 76 meters (249 feet) across and 12 meters (39 feet) high and covers 4,500 square meters (1.1 acres) of land. Within the pile is a chamber passage, which can be accessed through an entrance on the southeast side of monumentet.Passagen extends 19 meters (60 feet), [7] , or about a third of the way into the center of the structure. At the end of the passage is small three chambers outside a larger central chamber, with a high Corbelled arch roof.Each of the smaller chambers has a large flat “stone basin”, which was where the bones of the dead possibly originally deposited, although it was actually a cemetery is still unclear. The walls of this passage consists of large stone slabs, twenty-two of them are on the west side, and twenty-one in the east, which averaged at 1.5 meters in height, [8] several are decorated with carvings (as well as graffiti from after the rediscovery) . The ceiling shows no sign of smoke.

Located around the perimeter of the pile is a circle of standing stones, as most archaeologists consider to have been added later in the Bronze Age, had centuries after the original monument abandoned as a tomb.


Newgrange contains various examples of abstract Neolithic petroglyphs carved on it that gives decoration. [9] These carvings fit into ten categories, five of which are curved (circles, spirals, arcs, serpentiniforms and dot-in-circles) and the other five of which are rectilinear (Chevron, lozenges, radials, parallel lines and offsets). They are also characterized by great differences in style, skill level that would have been needed to produce them, and how deeply carved they are. [10] One of the most remarkable examples of art at Newgrange is triskele -like features on the entrance stone. It is about three meters long and 1.2 meters high (10 ft. Long and 4 ft. High), and about five tons of vikt.Det has been described as “one of the most famous rocks in the whole repertoire of megalithic art.” [11] Archaeologists believe most of the carvings were produced before the stones “that were erected, although the entrance stone instead carved in situ before the curbs were placed next to it. [12]

Different archaeologists have speculated on the meaning of decoration, with some, such as George Coffey (in 1890), believe that they are purely decorative, while others, like MJ O’Kelly (1962-1975 led excavations at the site), believed them to have some kind of symbolic purposes, as part of the carvings had been in places that would not have been visible, such as at the bottom of orthostatic slabs below ground level. [13] Extensive research on how art relates to adjustments and astronomy in the Boyne Valley complex was performed by American-Irish researcher Martin Brennan.


The Neolithic people who built the monument were indigenous agriculturalists, growing crops and raising animals like cows in the area where their settlements were located.

Construction and funerals

The complex of Newgrange was originally built between c. 3200 and 3100 BC.[14] According to carbon-14 date, [15] it is approximately five hundred years older than the current form of Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, as well as prior to the Mycenaean culture of ancient Greece. [16] some put their construction slightly later, at 3000 to 2500 BC [17] geological analysis suggests that much of the materials used to construct Newgrange was beach blocks collected from the rocky beach at Clogherhead, County Louth, ca. 20 km to the northeast. The blocks may be transported to Newgrange place at sea and up the River Boyne by securing them to the underside of boats at low tide (see diagram in Benozzo (2010)); four plates of brown carboniferous sandstone is from further away, the rest of the 547 plates used in the construction of the monument is greywacke of Clogherhead formation, a feldspar-rich sedimentary rock. [18] [19]

None of the structural plates were broken, for they show signs of having been naturally weathered, so they must have been collected and then transported in any way is largely up to the Newgrange site. [20] Meanwhile, the stones used for the cairn , which together would have weighed around 200,000 tons, was probably taken from the river terraces between Newgrange and the Boyne, and it is really a big pond in this area has been speculated place was broken by Newgrange’s builders to use materials for cairn. [20]Frank Mitchell suggested that the monument would be built in the space of five years, basing its estimates on the likely number of local residents during the Neolithic and how much time they could have spent to build it rather than agriculture. This estimate, however, criticized by MJ O’Kelly and his archaeological team, who thought that it would have taken at least thirty years to build. [21]

Excavations have revealed deposits of both fired and unfired human bone in the passage, suggesting human corpses were actually placed within it, some of which had cremated. From examining the unburned bones, it appeared to come from at least two different individuals, but a large part of their skeletons were missing, and what was left were scattered passage. [22] Various grave goods were deposited at the side of the body inside the passage. excavations that took place in the late 1960s and early 1970s revealed seven “spheres”, four pendants, two beads, a used flint flake, a bone chisel and fragments of bone pins and points. [23] Many more artifacts found in passage in previous centuries by visiting antiquarians and tourists, although most of them were taken away and missing or held in private collections. Despite these sometimes recorded, and it is believed that the grave goods came from Newgrange was typical of Neolithic Irish passage grave assemblages. [24] The remains of animals have also been found in the grave, mostly those of mountain hares, rabbits and dogs, but also bats, sheep or goats, cattle, song thrush, and more rarely, molluscs and frog. Most of these animals would simply have written, and died in the chamber many centuries or even millennia after it was constructed. For example, rabbits were only introduced in Ireland in the 13th century [25]


During a large part of the Neolithic period, Newgrange continued as a focus for any ceremonial activity. New monuments added to the site included a wooden circle (or Stonehenge) to the south east of the main deck and a smaller timber circle to the west. The eastern timber circle consisted of five concentric rows of pits. The outer row contained wooden posts. The next row of pits had clay liner and used to burn the animal remains. The three inner rows of pits were dug to accept animal remains. Within the circle were post and stake holes associated with Beaker pottery and flint flakes. The western timber circle consisted of two concentric rows of parallel postholes and pits defining a circle 20 meters in diameter. [ Citation needed ] A concentric pile of mud was constructed around the southern and western sides of the mound that covered a structure consisting of two parallel lines mail and ditches that had been partially burned. An independent circle of large stones were constructed surrounding the pile. Near the entrance, hardener 17 used to set the fire. These structures at Newgrange is generally contemporary with a number henges known from the Boyne Valley, Newgrange at Site A, Site O Newgrange, Dowth henge and Monknewtown Stonehenge. [ Citation needed ]

The site apparently continued to have some ritual significance in the Iron Age; between different objects later deposited around the pile are two pendants made of gold Roman coins 320-337 AD (now in the National Museum of Ireland) and Roman gold jewelery including two bracelets, two finger rings and a necklace, now in the collections of the British Museum. [26]


There have been various debates about its original purpose. Many archaeologists believed that the monument had religious significance of some kind or another, either as a place of worship of a “cult of the dead” or an astronomically-based faith. Archaeologist Michael J. O’Kelly, who led the 1962-1975 excavations on the site, believed that the monument must be seen in relation to the nearby Knowth and Dowth, and the construction of Newgrange ‘can not be considered other than an expression of some kind of powerful force or motivation, transferred to the extreme glorification of these three monuments, cathedrals megalithic religion. ” [27] O’Kelly thought Newgrange, along with hundreds of other passage tombs built in Ireland during the Neolithic showed evidence of a religion that venerated the dead as one of its fundamental principles. He believed that this “cult of the dead” was just a special form of European Neolithic religion, and that other megalithic monuments shown evidence of various religious beliefs which were the sun, rather than death-oriented. [27]

However, studies in other areas of expertise offer alternative interpretations of the possible functions, which mainly center on astronomy, engineering, geometry and mythology associated with the Boyne monuments. It is speculated that the sun formed an important part of the religious beliefs of the Neolithic people who built it. One idea was that the room was intended for a ritual absorption of the sun on the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, as the room gets flooded with sunlight, which might have helped the days start to get longer again. This view is strengthened by the discovery of adaptations of Knowth, Dowth and Lough Crew Cairns leads to the interpretation of these monuments which calendrical or astronomical units.Earlier Newgrange mound was surrounded by an outer ring of immense standing stones, of which twelve of a possible thirty-seven left. However, indicate by carbon dating to the stone circle which encircled Newgrange can not be contemporary with the monument itself but were placed there some 1,000 years later in the Bronze Age. This view is controversial, and relates to a time of coal from a standing stone that cuts with a later hour after the circle, the theory is that the stone in question may have been moved and re-set in its original position at a later date. However, this does demonstrate continuity in the use of Newgrange in over a thousand years; with partial remains were found from only five individuals, the tomb theory is questioned. [ citation needed ]

Once a year, at the winter solstice, the light of the rising sun directly along the long passage, illuminating the inner chamber and reveal the carvings inside, especially triple spirals on the front wall of the chamber. This lighting lasts about 17 minutes. [3] MJ O’Kelly was the first person in modern times to observe this event on December 21, 1967. [28] The sunlight enters the passage through a specially contrived opening, known as a roof box, direct above the main entrance. Although the sun adjustments are not uncommon among passage graves of Newgrange is one of the few to include additional roof box function; (Cairn G at Carrowkeel megalithic Cemetery is another, and it has been suggested that can be found at Bryn Celli Ddu. [29] ). The alignment is such that even if the roof box is above the passage entrance, the light hits the floor of the internal chamber. Today the first light enters about four minutes after sunrise, but calculations based on the precession of the Earth show that 5,000 years ago first light would have entered exactly at soluppgången.Solens focus on Newgrange is very precise compared to similar phenomena in other passage graves as Dowth or Maes Howe in Orkney Islands, off the coast of Scotland.

Maturity and Beaker settlement

During the Late Neolithic, it seems that Newgrange is no longer used by the locals, which leaves some artifacts in the passage grave and bury any of their dead there. As archaeologist Michael O’Kelly said: “In 2000 [BC] Newgrange was in disrepair and squatters lived around the collapsing edge.” [30] These “squatters” were followers of the Beaker Culture, which had been imported from the European continent and made Beaker style pottery locally. [30]

Discovery, excavation and restoration

Mythology and folklore in the medieval and early modern period

During the medieval period, Newgrange and wider Brú na Bóinne neolithic complex got different attributes in local folklore, which were often linked to figures from the wider Irish mythology. Monuments of Brú was regarded by some as the abode of the supernatural Tuatha Dé Danann, while others considered them to be burial mounds of the ancient kings of Tara. Among those who thought the folkloric tales relating to BRU Tuatha Dé Danann, it was widely believed that they were the abode of the most powerful of the Tuatha, especially Dagda, Boann his wife and his son, Óengus. According to 11th century book Lecan had Dagda Brú built for himself and his three sons, while the 12th century book Leinster describes how Óengus tricked his father into giving him Brú for all eternity. Another text, The Pursuit of Diarmaid and Grainne also means Óengus took Brú, when he explained how he took his friend Diarmaid to it. [31]

Meanwhile, in 1142, it had become a part of the dissenting farmland owned by the Cistercian Abbey of Mellifont. These farms were called Granges. By 1378 it was simply called the “new grange”. Because of the Williamite seized Charles Campbell became the land owner as a participant of the estates forfeited 1688. [ citation needed ]

Antiquarianism in the 17th and 18th centuries

In 1699, a local landowner, Charles Campbell, ordered some of his farm laborers to dig up some of Newgrange, which had the appearance of a large mound of earth, so that he could collect the stones inside it. The workers soon discovered the entrance to the tomb of the pile, and a Welsh antiquarian named Edward Lhwyd, who lived in the area were alerted and took an interest in the monument. He wrote an account of the mound and the grave, describes what he saw as his “barbaric sculpture” and notes that animal bones, beads and pieces of glass had been found inside the (modern archaeologists have speculated that the latter two were in fact polished ceramic beads who later turned on the spot and that was a common feature of Neolithic tombs). [32] soon another antiquarian visitors also came to the site, named Sir Thomas Molyneaux, who was a professor at the University of Dublin. He spoke to Charles Campbell, who informed him that he had found the remains of two human corpses in the grave, one (who were male), in one of the tanks, and another further along the passage, which Lhwyd had not been noted. [33] Then Newgrange was attended by a number of antiquarians, who often performed his own measurements of the site and made their own observations, which are often published in various antiquarian journals; these included such figures as Sir William Wilde, Thomas Pownall, Thomas Wright, John O’Donovan, George Petrie and James Ferguson. [34]

These curators are often being their own theories about the origin of Newgrange, many of which have since been proven false. Thomas Pownall conducted a very detailed examination of Newgrange in 1769 [35] which numbers all the stones and also plays a part of the carvings on the stone said, but also that the pile had originally been higher and a lot of stone on top of it had later been removed, a theory which has since been disproved by archaeological research. [36] most of these old also refused to believe that it was the ancient people native to Ireland who built the monument, with many believing that it had been built in the early medieval period of invading Vikings, while others speculated that it was actually built by the ancient Egyptians, ancient Indians or the Phoenicians. [37]

Conservation, archaeological studies, and reconstructions in the 19th and 20th centuries

Sometime in the early 1800’s folly was built a few laps behind Newgrange.Foolishness, with two round windows, made of stones taken from Newgrange. In 1882, according to the law on monuments protection, Newgrange and the nearby monuments Knowth and Dowth were under the control of the State (United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, as it was then called), and they were placed under the responsibility of the Board of Public Works. In 1890, under the leadership of Thomas Newenham Deane Board began a project of conservation of the monuments, which had been damaged by the general decline in the previous three millennia, as well as the increasing damage caused by visitors, some of whom had inscribed their.names of stones [38] in the next few decades, a number of archaeologists carried out excavations at the site, discover more about its function and how it had been built; but even at that time it was still widely believed by archaeologists to be Bronze Age origin rather than the older Neolithic. [39] In 1950, electric lighting was installed in the passageway to allow visitors to see more clearly, [40] while an exhaustive archaeological excavations were made from 1962 until 1975, was the excavation report written by Michael J. O’Kelly and published in 1982 by Thames and Hudson archeology, art and Legend: Newgrange . [41]

After O’Kelly excavation, further restoration and rebuilding took place at the site. As part of a reconstruction, white quartzite stones and cobblestones fixed in a near vertical steel-reinforced concrete wall surrounding the entrance of the heap. This work is controversial among the archaeological community. PR Griot described the monument that looks like a “cream cheese cake with dried streams distributed around.” [42] Neil Oliver described the building as “a little brutal, a little far, much like Stalin makes the Stone Age.” [43] Critics of the new wall points that the technology did not exist when the mound was created to fix a retaining wall at this angle. Another theory is that the white quartzite stones had actually formed a square on the ground at the entrance. This theory was preferred at nearby Knowth, where the restorers, the quartzite rocks like an “apron” in front of the entrance to the big pile.

The curved walls that flank each side of the entrance are not original, nor is it intended to be similar to Newgrange original appearance, but was designed to facilitate the access of visitors. But a visitor’s guide book to the site is a reconstruction drawing depicting Neolithic inhabitants use Newgrange showing the modern entrance as if it were part of Newgrange original appearance. [44]

Access to Newgrange

In the early 1970s, Newgrange about 30,000 visitors per year. In 1980 this had doubled to 63,000, and in 1990 had doubled again to 132,000. In 1996, the official number of visitors to Newgrange exceeded 150,000, with thousands of others who can not get access to the site that saturation point had been reached. [45]

Access to Newgrange is only guided tour. Tours begin at the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre which visitors are bussed to the site in groups. Current day visitors to Newgrange are treated to a reenactment of the winter solstice experience through the use of electric lights located within the grave. The finale of a Newgrange tour results in each tour member standing inside the tomb where the tour guide is then turned off the lights and light the lamp simulates the sun as it seems on the winter solstice. To experience the phenomenon of the morning winter solstice itself inside Newgrange, you must enter a lottery at the interpretive center. Of the thousands who enter, are fifty elected every year, each one must take a single guest. The winners are divided into groups of 10 and taken out in five days around the solstice where the light enters the chamber, weather permitting.


  1. Jump up ^ “Sí a Bhrú / Newgrange.” Retrieved April 27, 2015.
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  21. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 117-118)
  22. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 105-106)
  23. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 105)
  24. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 107)
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  29. Jump up ^ Pitts (2006) Sensational new discoveries at Bryn Celli Ddu.British Archaeology No. 89 (July / August): 6th
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  31. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 43-46)
  32. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 24)
  33. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 27)
  34. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 33-34)
  35. Jump up ^ Archaeologia Vol 2, 1773. A description of the funerary monuments of Newgrange, Drogheda, in County Meath in Ireland. By Thomas Pownall, Esq. in a letter to Pastor Gregory Sharpe, DD Master of the Middle Temple.Läs at the Society of Antiquaries June 21/28 1770. Archaeologia Vol.2, pp.236-276 [2]
  36. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 33)
  37. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 35)
  38. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 38-39)
  39. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 42)
  40. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 41)
  41. Jump up ^ O’Kelly (1982: 09)
  42. Jump up ^ Giot, P.-R. (1983). “Review: Newgrange. Archeology, art and legend “.Antiken. 57 (220): 150.
  43. Jump up ^ “A History of Ancient Britain” Series episode three, “Age of Cosmology”, BBC documentary, 2011.
  44. Jump up ^ Alan Marshall, “Newgrange Excavation Report Critique”
  45. Jump up ^ Ruth McManus, “Heritage and Tourism in Ireland -an unholy alliance?”, Irish geography. Volume 30 (2), 1997, pages 90-98.