Newgrange is a prehistoric monument in County Meath, Ireland, located about one kilometre north of the River Boyne. The site consists of a large circular mound with a stone passageway and interior chambers. The mound has a retaining wall at the front and is ringed by engraved curbstones.
There is no agreement about what the site was used for, but it has been speculated that it had religious significance, it is aligned with the rising sun and its light floods the chamber on the winter solstice. The mound is 76 metres (249 ft) across and 12 metres (39 ft) high, and covers 4,500 square metres (1.1 acres) of ground.
Within the mound is a chambered passage, which can be accessed by an entrance on the southeastern side of the monument. The passage stretches for 19 metres (60 ft), or about a third of the way into the centre of the structure. At the end of the passage are three small chambers off a larger central chamber, with a high corbelled vault roof.
Each of the smaller chambers has a large flat “basin stone”, which was where the bones of the dead were possibly originally deposited, although whether it was actually a burial site remains unclear.
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. Archaeologists classified Newgrange as a passage tomb, however Newgrange is now recognized to be much more than a passage tomb.
Ancient Temple is a more fitting classification, a place of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance, much as present day cathedrals are places of prestige and worship where dignitaries may be laid to rest.
The accuracy of Newgrange as a time-telling device is remarkable when one considers that it was built 500 years before the Great Pyramids and more than 1,000 years before Stonehenge. The intent of its builders was undoubtedly to mark the beginning of the New Year. In addition, it may have served as a powerful symbol of the victory of life over death.
Newgrange was built in a time when there was only stone, not metal, used as an everyday material for tools and weapons. In 1993, Newgrange and its sister sites Knowth and Dowth were designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO because of their outstanding cultural legacy.
The exterior of the mound is decorated with 97 large kerbstones (or curbstones in the American spelling) that are carved with beautiful and intriguing spiral designs. Scholars think these stones were recycled from an earlier burial place.
The mound itself is made of 200,000 tons of stone brought from 75 miles away, which were then covered with several yards of soil. The boulders were placed with amazing precision that makes the structure watertight; just how this was done remains a mystery.