UNESCO has set aside Newgrange for preservation as a World Heritage Site. Hundreds of thousands of interested visitors tour this amazing historical structure every year. Located about five kilometres west of Drogheda just off Denore Road in County Meath, Ireland, this ancient site is classified as a megalithic passage tomb mound.
Still, the structure proves to be much more, a temple for ceremonies and significant for astronomy, religion and spirituality. The purpose of Newgrange seems to be similar to modern cathedrals with prominent members interred, and this ancient site is an important piece of Irish history that is the largest of an entire complex of similar mounds.
All visitors drive to the car park at the Bru na Boinne Visitor Centre where they can learn many fascinating facts about this region and the complex of mounds. A shuttle will carry groups of visitors to the Newgrange mound. The mound rises twelve meters and the land area occupied is about one acre. The mound is approximately 76 meters across. Parts of the mound are recently restored using materials and construction appearance that catch the essence of original design.
Guests follow a tour guide down the almost nineteen meters of passageway down into the interior, three small rooms off one large, center room. The high ceiling is constructed with a corbeled technique where stones are layered so that each layer stretches out beyond the previous layer for support and, thus, the completed ceiling/roof is undeniably strong. In fact, this temple dates back to around 3000 B.C. and the room and main structure has survived all of these years.
Bru na Boinne is the Irish name for Newgrange. Monks of Mellifont Abbey used the land where the ancient temple and tomb is situated as "grange" for farming. Thus, two names refer to the monument. The mound is set on a hill in the scenic Irish countryside and is shaped in a rounded, slightly kidney shape.
During the Winter Solstice, the rising sun engulfs the interior of Newgrange with its light for over fifteen minutes. The sunlight enters through a window opening just above the main entryway. During the rest of the year, the tour guide will turn off all other lighting inside the mound and turn on an installed electric light that simulates the morning sun's rays in the way they fall inside the chamber. The accuracy of this ancient timekeeper is phenomenal.
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