The facility north of Dublin is one of the largest and most important prehistoric sites in Europe. The graves were created between 3500 and 2500 BC. Some of the best known are the stone barrows at Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth.
Bend of the Boyne Archaeological Ensemble: Facts
|Official title:||Archaeological Ensemble Bend of the Boyne|
|Cultural monument:||according to popular tradition, “burial ground of the pagan kings of Torah” with an extension of more than 3 km; 40 passage graves, including 3 large passage graves such as Dowth with 15 m high, Knowth (Cnêbha) with two separate passages and burial chambers and Newgrange (Sían Bhrú) with 13 m high and surrounded by a stone setting made of 97 stones; in Newgrange corridor of 19 m, through which at sunrise on December 21st. the sunlight penetrates into the inner burial chamber|
|Location:||west of Donore and Drogheda, east of Slane, in a loop of the River Boyne|
|Meaning:||one of the largest and most important testimonies of prehistoric European megalithic culture|
Bend of the Boyne Archaeological Ensemble: History
|around 3200-3000 BC Chr.||Newgrange plant from 200,000 tons of stone and earth, plus plant from Knowth and Dowth|
|1800 BC Chr.||There is evidence that Knowth was used as a grave site during the Bronze Age|
|800-900||Conversion of Knowth into a ring wall and seat of the King of North Brega|
|1962||systematic archaeological investigations of Newgrange and Dowth|
|1967||Discovery of the longest known passage grave, Knowth, with a length of 34 m|
|1969||“Discovery” that at the winter solstice a thin beam of light penetrates the furthest corner of the Newgrange passage grave|
|1975||Restoration of Newgrange|
An enlightenment – not just for O’Kelly
It was December 21, 1969 when Professor O’Kelly of University College Cork made an extraordinary discovery. On this day of the annual winter solstice, he waited for sunrise in the Stone Age grave complex at Newgrange. Shortly after the golden arc had crossed the horizon, a tiny beam penetrated through a slit-like opening above the grave entrance into the furthest corner of the inner burial chamber and finally illuminated it completely. This light show lasts for a quarter of an hour every year, a “victory of light” after the shortest day of the year. And even today, when this event is staged every day with the help of artificial light sources for the large streams of tourists, one cannot escape the fascination.
This “enlightenment” of the burial chamber, which is undoubtedly extremely precisely planned and executed, is astonishing, since the age of the tomb is estimated to be over 5000 years and the tomb of Newgrange is older than Stonehenge in neighboring England, and even older than the world-famous pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
Little is known of their builders. Only a few flints and pottery finds remain from that period, making passage graves like that of Newgrange the most telling and interesting traces of Irish prehistory. The monumental tombs refer to the beginning of the fourth millennium BC, when the exclusive existence of the people in Ireland as hunters and gatherers was gradually replaced by sedentarism according to franciscogardening. These people from the Neolithic Age raised cattle, kept cows, sheep and goats on the Emerald Isle. The yields from agriculture and animal husbandry must have been large, so that a stable, long-term social order could already be developed. Only in a well-organized community that no longer lived “from hand to mouth” was one able to to erect such monumental structures. Obviously, a considerable part of the community’s labor force was necessary to fetch the stones of this burial complex, some of which weighed tons, from a great distance. The burial mound, almost a hundred meters in diameter and over 13 meters high, conceals an approximately 19-meter-long corridor, which is bordered by menhirs 1.50 to 2.40 meters high. Through it you get to the central burial chamber, from which three further burial niches lead off in the shape of a cloverleaf. bordered by menhirs 1.50 to 2.40 meters high. Through it you get to the central burial chamber, from which three further burial niches lead off in the shape of a cloverleaf. bordered by menhirs 1.50 to 2.40 meters high. Through it you get to the central burial chamber, from which three further burial niches lead off in the shape of a cloverleaf.
Even today, the precise construction of the mighty stone roof does not let a single raindrop through. It’s a bit of a miracle, given what it means to brave the persistent Irish rain. Stone basins in the side chambers contained ashes and bones from the dead, as well as grave goods. The incised decorations on the plates and stones used are remarkable and the subject of wildest speculation. They show circles and spirals, diamonds and zigzag patterns and their shape is quite reminiscent of other European megalithic buildings. The passage grave of Knowth, which is not far away and which will be reserved for archaeological work for many years to come, is equally impressive.
It would certainly be too brief to understand Newgrange and the mighty neighboring tombs merely as the final resting place of the rulers of that time. They were an expression of the ideas of this world and the hereafter of a society whose members no longer approached nature as nomadic collectors, but as part of an agricultural production community with considerable knowledge. This knowledge included not only knowledge from observations of nature and the sky as well as the exact calculation of the winter solstice, but also construction and transport techniques that at first glance are hardly associated with a Stone Age society.