Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Last Day in Ireland: Newgrange

From the Ultimate History Project webpage.
Go there to see photos of the mound
being restored
I have wanted to visit Newgrange ever since I listened to Frank Delaney's book, The Last Storyteller. It tells the history of Ireland through the voice of an old storyteller. Fascinating listening, particularly since it was read by the author.

So, Newgrange. Again, we were on that day tour with the guide who was a nice lady and certainly worked hard to keep us entertained, but for a place like this I wanted quiet and time to feel and listen. I managed to grab a few minutes and came away satisfied. If ever I get back to Newgrange I will go on my own, without a tour, and be there very early in the morning.

We were met at the tomb by one of Newgrange's own tour guides, Philip. He was knowledgeable and courteous, even when he explained that we could not take photos inside the tomb. This was very disappointing to those of us who had traveled a long way to see it and might never get back again. I question the reasons for this, as surely photography would not damage those ancient stones. I suppose it is income-related--they want to protect the copyright/ownership of any photography of Newgrange as much as possible, and not allowing photos means people have to come there to see it. Which leaves out a lot of people who may never have the means to do so



The entrance to Newgrange. It is a magical place. I was a disappointed, however, to learn that the exterior was actually a recreation of the site based on the research of one particular scientist, archeologist Michael O'Kelley. Many scientists have disputed his arrangement and design because the technology to erect such a structure was not available in 3200 BC when Newgrange was probably built. I have to agree. I think it looks entirely too neat and modern. 

I believe, as the scientists who worked on the nearby Knowth mound do, that the stones were likely some sort of paving around the entrance. Knowth mound is not yet open to tourists on the inside, but work has been done on its exterior and the stones on that site are used as a sort of terrace around the mound.


The stones used at Newgrange were all original to the site, which is pretty amazing when one considers the sheer number of them. The mound was discovered in 1699 by a landowner who had noticed a large amount of stone in the area and had ordered his workers to dig up the stone to be used for another purpose. The workers, however, found the stone entryway and alerted the owner, Mr. Campbell. Soon after a historian from Dublin visited the site. Found in the tomb were things like beads, animal bones, pieces of glass and 2 human skeletons. 

Many of the stones have carvings in them that were done with stone implements.



This large stone is at the entrance. 


Don't you wonder about those symbols, and what they meant? Were they simply art for art's sake, or were they a map of the area, or did they have some religious/spiritual/superstitious or ceremonial significance? Did it signify the placement of various tribes during winter solstice, and the "eternity" spirals a path to march or dance on that date?


It's another topic scholars disagree about, but I am content to think that the carvers were simply creating beauty--the image of a Stone Age man (or woman) sitting at this beautiful spot, stone tools in hand, and simply creating a design that pleased them makes me happy.

 Then there are the large standing stones,


these concrete markers that note the site of some other structure,


more stones marking...what?...


...and in the distance, the smaller mound of Dowth. Certainly this Boyne River Valley was a place of importance to bygone cultures.


But the valley, its cattle and sheep, clouds and green,


and the peaceful River Boyne are keeping that secret to themselves.


Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

5 comments:

Rowan said...

I think that places like Newgrange are definitely not places to be visited with tour parties:) early morning and on your own sounds a much better option. It looks a beautiful place with other things to see as well as the tomb itself. Like Stonehenge it will be part of a larger ceremonial area I suspect.

Mac n' Janet said...

We were a bit unhappy with the recreation at Newgrange too, I have a good imagination and I don't need a site "fancied" up. Still thought it was an incredible site. We liked Knowth better though, did you go there?

annie said...

amazing photos, wow!

Granny Sue said...

I agree, Rowan. Lesson learned this time! Still, I am glad I went to see it.

Granny Sue said...

Janet, you hit the nail on the head. It was too...I don't know, just too perfect? The inside was as it should have been I think, but the exterior disappointed me. And I wanted much more time to take it all in.

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