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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Mysteries from the past...

I am, perhaps oddly, drawn to Irish things. My grandfather, the late Dermot Peter Paul Patrick Joseph Dunne, came over on the boat from the Emerald Isle - so perhaps it's not so odd after all.

I have yearned to return to Ireland ever since spending time there when I was in secondary school in Cirencester. Alas, opportunity has not opened the door. But now, I have something new to hope for: a chance to visit the burial mound at Newgrange...

This article from National Geographic describes the popularity of the oldest known burial site in Ireland - older than the Great Pyramid at Giza as well as Stonehenge.

What makes Newgrange, and other mounds scattered around the River Boyne, so intriguing is their alignment with the sun during various times of the year. At Newgrange, the winter solstice sun shines through a tiny window above the door at dawn, illuminating the floor of the the burial chamber at the end of a sixty-foot passageway.

For about seventeen minutes, twenty people a year are drawn at random and descend the passage to witness this amazing feat of ancient engineering. Although I'm not sure if it's the saints that go marching in, I would like to one day be in that number.

Why was the tomb aligned with the Winter Solstice? How did the builders design and construct such a precise structural alignment? Was it simply to honor their dead kings? Were they celebrating the rebirth of the sun? I don't know, but I'd like to go and have a look anyway.

Wouldn't you?



  1. I hope you get there, Mike! And take me with you, please! I have long wanted to visit the legendary home of Angus mac Og.

  2. I saw a PBS show on Newgrange and other burial sites in Ireland many years ago. Like you, I was very drawn to the light of the Winter Solstice entering the inmost cavern just once a year. (They recorded the shaft of light entering.)
    If I ever get to the British Isles, I think I'll have trouble choosing between viewing Stonehenge and visiting Newgrange.

  3. Aye, Angus was a shrewd one but it seems he came to a fey end.


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