About 26 Miles from Dublin, Ireland lies the Newgrange Passage Tomb, within the green landscape of the Boyne Valley which sets the stage for a journey ahead. A site of mystery and wonder Newgrange is a marvel whispering tales of eras of the past, it is considered to be one of Europe’s largest and most important structures of pre-historic megalithic art by UNESCO, with carbon dating putting construction at around 3200 BC making the Newgrange Passage Tomb older and Stonehenge and even about 600 years older than the pyramids of Giza in Egypt. The importance of the Newgrange Passage goes beyond the historical as it continues to resonate presently. Newgrange Passage is a museum of sorts, not just because of its historic nature, but also its actions of recording past activities, rituals, building techniques, materials, and art pulling visitors to its curiosities secrets, and echoes of time.

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 Eternal Passage of the Dead 

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Before Cathedrals, there were passage tombs, Newgrange passage is not just about the structure but about its spiritual connection and ritual. Similar to a church, mosque, or a place of worship, the Newgrange Passage was a place of communal reverence, and those feelings seem to still be present to this day. A visit to Newgrange, its passages and tombs moves beyond appreciation of its physical prowess, with its descending path of carvings, walls, and chambers from quartzite stone, the grass-covered hump emerging from the ground is a revelation to those who enter. Newgrange Passage provides a rare opportunity to be transported through time and history straddling between the realm of the living and dead, the otherworld. As a site, Newgrange’s power and pull are not just about the massive structure but its possibility as a site of reflection, transformation, and change.

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The Solstice Reveals 

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“Within the darkened chamber, they wait, like the bright seeds within the earth. How long before rays of sunlight slowly creep into the passage? In the field below, people pray for good omens, then pray for your harvest” (Hensey,2015). The major draw and catalyst for this reflection is the winter solstice which crates this intersection of the spiritual and place. A visit to Newgrange goes beyond going to a physical location, it is considered to be momentous, a witnessing of an encounter, a meeting between worlds facilitated through the solstice, light, and place. Described by archeologist Micheal J O’Kelley the solstice acts as a pen of light rewriting and revealing. This witnessing is the true transport through time, giving an idea of what Neolithic people and ceremonies could have experienced, in this moment a new identity is formed, and identity is transformed. This pencil of light is not static, it continually changes and responds to the chambers of Newgrange passages getting smaller, wider changing in brilliance and clarity, animating the passage to death and transcendence. A Solstice experience at Newgrange leaves the visitor changed almost as if visiting an otherworldly realm, the atmosphere is transformed. The light leads and reveals, hidden arts, hidden secrets, and hidden customs are revealed, carvings are signified, and symbols intricacies of spirals, circles and meandering lines are highlighted. in these moments, the structure pulses and Newgrange Passage earns its reputation as an astronomical monument with the experience of moving beyond stone walls into the Boyne Valley creating a connection to land and history giving hints of the larger archeological landscape.

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“I shall not unnecessarily trespass upon the time and patience of my readers in endeavoring to ascertain what tribes first peopled this country, nor to what nation the construction of this singular monument may reasonably be attributed for, I fear, both its authors and its original destination will ever remain unknown. Conjecture may wander over its wild and spacious domains but will never bring home with it either truth or conviction. Alike will the histories of those stupendous temples at Avebury and Stonehenge which grace my native country, remain involved in obscurity and oblivion” (Richard Colt, 1807 from www.knowth.com, n.d.).

A visit to the Newgrange Passage Tomb acts as a pilgrimage, through time, religion, people, and culture, the response is not just physical but spiritual, marking the visitor not just with memories but an appreciation of a civilization and humanity.

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 Reference List

  • Hensey, R 2015, First Light: The Origins of Newgrange, Oxbow Books, Limited, Havertown. Available from: ProQuest Ebook Central. [22 December 2023].
  • Michael J. O’Kelly (no date) Professor Michael J. O’Kelly excavated and restored Newgrange. Available at: https://www.newgrange.com/michael-j-okelly.htm (Accessed: 22 December 2023).
  • O’Hare, M. (2017) Newgrange: Ireland’s amazing feat of Stone Age Engineering, CNN. Available at: https://edition.cnn.com/travel/article/newgrange-ireland-stone-age/index.html (Accessed: 23 December 2023).
  • O’kelly, M.J. and O’kelly, C. (1982). Newgrange: archaeology, art, and legend. London: Thames And Hudson.