At Irish Cufflinks, we thought we provide information on Ireland top places to visit, and with the introduction of the celtic cufflinks, we are providing information on Newgrange, in Co. Meath.

The Passage Tomb

Newgrange is known as a passage tomb and was wonderfully constructed by the earliest man in Ireland. As you approach this magical tomb, a large rock sits at an opening to a passage. The large rock at the front of the passage is beautifully carved with Celtic designs and is known to have the only triple spiral motif Celtic design ever found. Around the circumference of the Newgrange tomb are 97 large stones, known as kerbstones, with each one also having carvings of Celtic designs.

The inner section of the large circle is a large mound of earth and leans against an angled wall composed of Quartz and Granite. The angle of the quartz wall is a remarkable piece of architecture & construction even by today’s standards and was build on top of the large ring of carved rock.

Newgrange Celtic Designs

As you walk around the site you can see the beautiful Celtic designs carved into the face of each rock, although very little is known about the Celtic designs it does allow us to interrupt our own meaning and to let our imagination run wild. However, we do know these Celtic designs were most likely to have been carved into the rocks later and is believed the carvings had been done by a man who had traveled from France or Italy.

As you enter the passage of the height of the passage is at first small but gets higher as you enter the main chamber. Inside the main chamber, which is a cross shape, there are large rocks that form part of the walls of the passage. Beautiful Celtic designs can be found on the rocks along the walled passage and inside the main chamber with the roof towering to 19m in height. The main chamber served a main purpose as a tomb and when excavated the remains of five bodies had been found.

Newgrange or the whole area of Brú na Bóinne must have had a major significance for the people who has first build the sites as the design and construction of the tombs were very complex, to say the least. The quartz & granite would have come from miles away from Newgrange as this type of stone is not found in the area. The large rocks and standing stones would have also been transported (somehow) from miles away as again, these type of rocks are not generally found in the area where the site is located.

Magical Experience

The most magical part of Newgrange is how it is aligned perfectly with the sun during the winter solstice. The sun shines through a roofbox, located above the passage entrance, and rises to light up the main chamber tomb lasting over 15 minutes. Each year people in Ireland gather at the site of Newgrange to experience this amazing event but only those who hold special invite are allowed to be within the tomb as it happens.

Newgrange was originally built between c. 3300 and 2900 BC, which means that it is over 5,000 years old. According to Carbon-14 dates,[2] it is more than 500 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and predates Stonehenge trilithons by about 1,000 years (although the earliest stages of Stonehenge are roughly contemporary with Newgrange).

In the Neolithic period, Newgrange continued as a focus of some ceremonial activity. New monuments added to the site included a timber circle to the south-east of the main mound 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 linings and was used to burn animal remains. The three inner rows of pits were dug to accept the 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 m in diameter.

A concentric mound of clay was constructed around the southern and western sides of the mound and covered a structure consisting of two parallel lines of post and ditches that had been partly burnt. A free-standing circle of large stones was constructed encircling the mound. Near the entrance, 17 hearths were used to set fires. These structures at Newgrange are generally contemporary with a number of Henges known from the Boyne Valley, at Newgrange Site A, Newgrange Site O, Dowth Henge and Monknewtown Henge.
Excavation and restoration
Newgrange lay hidden for over 4,000 years due to mound slippage, until the late 17th century, when men looking for building stone uncovered it, and described it as a cave. Newgrange was excavated and much restored between 1962 and 1975, under the supervision of Professor Michael J. O’Kelly, Department of Archaeology, University College, Cork.[3] It consists of a vast man-made stone and turf mound retained within a circle of 97 large kerbstones topped by a high inward-leaning wall of white quartzite and granite. Most of the stones were sourced locally (within a radius of 20km or so) but the quartzite and granite stones of the facade must have been sourced further afield, most probably in Wicklow and Dundalk Bay respectively.

As part of the restoration process the white quartzite stones and cobbles were fixed into a near-vertical steel-reinforced concrete wall surrounding the entrance of the mound. This restoration is controversial among the archaeological community. Critics of the wall point out 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 formed a plaza on the ground at the entrance. This theory won out at nearby Knowth, where the restorers have laid the quartzite stones out as an “apron” in front of the entrance to the great mound.

The Newgrange mound is 76m (250ft) across and 12m (40ft) high, and covers 0.4 hectares (one acre). Within the mound, a long passage, stretching approximately one third of the length of the mound, leads to a cruciform (cross-shaped) chamber. The passage itself is over 18m (60ft) long. The burial chamber has a corbelled roof which rises steeply upwards to a height of nearly 6m (20 ft). A tribute to its builders, the roof has remained essentially intact and waterproof for over 5,000 years.