Have you ever heard of Newgrange? It’s been around since the stone age, but it’s not too well-known outside of Ireland. It’s one of several mounds found in Brú na Bóinne and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its historical significance. Why was it built and what exactly does it represent? That’s something we think we’ve found the answer to.
An ancient tomb
Newgrange is essentially a glorified graveyard for our ancestors who died thousands of years ago. Although the people who lived during that time had very simple houses, their tombs were often glorious things intended to last forever. That’s why materials like bone and stone were used to create Newgrange, but their own houses were made from wood and clay.
These weren’t just tombs to people 5,000 years ago. They served multiple functions, including as a place for people to gather and to worship their ancestors. Over time, developments were made to adapt the design of these tombs, primarily to include the solar alignments. Newgrange is the only one of these mounds to have a special opening above its entrance to allow sunlight to filter through, and it makes for a rather unique experience.
Just as Stonehenge has an association with the solstice, so too does Newgrange. People gathered in the tomb during the winter solstice to watch as the sunlight filtered through into the darkness. On this day, the innermost chamber (which is about 19 meters from the entrance) would fill with light for 17 minutes.
It’s an experience that people can still have now, although gaining access on the day is difficult. Given the available space in the tomb, only a small batch of people can relive the moment every year. It’s an unfortunate restriction, but for those lucky enough to gain access, there’s nothing that quite compares. To be in that space sharing an experience that your ancestors would have also had is pretty amazing.
End of an era
While Newgrange was once used as a tomb, things had to change eventually. Otherwise, bodies would still be put to rest there now. Things changed once the Irish got their hands on bronze and the desire to be buried individually became popular. Although the tomb was still honored and worshipped by the people, it lost its original purpose and tradition slowly changed. Eventually, the mound was sealed up, and the dead were left alone for good.
It wasn’t until 1699 that the tomb was once again opened after being discovered by one of William of Orange’s men. Now, it’s a popular tourist attraction for locals and visitors who want a glimpse of life in the stone age. Entry only costs you $5-15, so if you’re interested in seeing what Newgrange has to offer, it’s worth the money.
We may think we’re advanced now, but the creations of our ancestors can still be hugely surprising. Even if they didn’t have the tools and materials available to us, they were still able to create mindblowing masterpieces that show they know what they’re doing. It makes you wonder just what they’d be able to come up with if they were still alive today.