Newgrange is the most important the of passage tombs and megalithic monuments to be found at Bru Na Boinne, a sacred site along the banks of the River Boyne in County Meath. The monument sits on a low hill on a bend in the river about five miles inland from the old Norman city of Drogheda and a couple of miles upstream from the site of the Battle of The Boyne.

History of Newgrange

Newgrange was discovered in the late 17th century and is believed to have been built by the ancient Celts over 5,000 years ago. The site was used as a tomb and was used to mark the passage of the seasons, with the Winter Solstice being the most significant event. The celebration of the Winter Solstice at Newgrange has a long and rich history, and the site continues to be a place of celebration and renewal to this day.

The Celtic Spiral: its meaning and symbolism

The Celtic Spiral is a symbol that has been associated with the Celts for thousands of years. The symbol represents the cyclical nature of life and is seen as a symbol of growth and renewal. The significance of the Celtic Spiral in Celtic culture is closely tied to the celebration of the Winter Solstice, and the spiral is often used to decorate the site of Newgrange during the celebration.

The Winter Solstice Celebration at Newgrange

The preparation for the Winter Solstice celebration at Newgrange begins months in advance. The site is decorated with Celtic spirals and other symbols of renewal, and special ceremonies are held to mark the event. On the day of the Winter Solstice, the sun rises and illuminates the interior of the tomb, creating a spectacular display of light and color. The significance of the Winter Solstice celebration at Newgrange is rooted in the ancient belief that it marks the rebirth of the sun and the beginning of a new cycle of life. This celebration is a time of renewal and hope, and it continues to be an important event for the people of Ireland to this day.

The Architecture of Newgrange

The construction of Newgrange is a marvel of ancient engineering. The monument was built using massive stones that were transported from miles away, and the structure is designed to align with the movements of the sun. The unique features of Newgrange include its circular shape, the intricate carvings on its exterior, and the impressive entrance passage that leads to the central chamber. The astronomical alignment of Newgrange is a testament to the knowledge and understanding of the ancient Celts, and it continues to inspire awe and wonder to this day.

Is Newgrange Really Older Than The Pyramids?

Yes. Newgrange was built around 3,200BC, which makes it older than the Great Pyramid at Giza and 1,000 years older than Stonehenge. The construction is a remarkable achievement when we consider it was made during the Stone Age, before metal was discovered in Ireland.

Little is known about who built Newgrange. Certainly it was not built by the Celts, as the Celtic tribes did not come to Ireland until about 500BC, some 2,700 years later!

The passage tomb was discovered in 1699, when the local landowner, Charles Campbell instructed his workmen to remove stones from the mound and in so doing discovered the entrance to the passage.

What is a Passage Tomb?

Newgrange is a large circular mound covering more than an acre, in which a stone passageway and burial chambers are buried. The cremated remains of at least five people were found in the chamber along with some beads and pendants, The mound is ringed by engraved curbstones and has been classified by archaeologists as a passage tomb or cairn.

 

Newgrange Passage Tomb Cross Section.
Cross Section of the Passage Tomb at Newgrange.

 

The people who built Newgrange must have been a rich and organized society. 200,000 tons of material was used in its construction and much of it was transported from quite a distance away. The majority of structural stones in the Boyne Valley tombs are greywacke. This stone type was quarried near Clogherhead north of Drogheda, Co. Louth. Other granite boulders used in the structure were collected from the North shore of Dundalk Bay. The facade at Newgrange consists of white quartz, which has its origins in the Wicklow Mountains. The boulders were brought by boat up the river Boyne and then moved one kilometer uphill from the river bank.

Celtic Spiral Decoration at Newgrange

The base of the mound is surrounded by 97 large boulders, called curbstones, many of which are richly decorated with carvings etched onto the stones. A wide range of motifs are used; circles, spirals, arcs, chevrons and lozenges are among the most common. It is thought that these geometric motifs have a symbolic significance. Whatever the meaning of these motifs may be they remain as remarkable examples of Neolithic Art in Ireland.

 

Celtic Spiral decoration carved into the rock.
Newgrange Entrance Stone features Spiral Decoration.

 

Carving Technique

The entrance stone at Newgrange is the most richly decorated of the curbstones. The design is dominated by a large triple spiral surrounded by smaller spirals and lozenges. Experts believe that the carvings were done using two techniques. Firstly, the groove was roughly chiseled out using a sharp stone or flint. The design was then deepened and smoothed out using a pebble. In this way, deep designs were carved into the stone.

The Art and Decoration of Newgrange

The carvings and artwork at Newgrange are an important part of the site’s history and significance. The intricate patterns and symbols that adorn the exterior of the monument are believed to have been created to mark the passage of the seasons and to celebrate the Winter Solstice. The significance of the artwork at Newgrange lies in its ability to connect us with the past and to remind us of the importance of the natural world and the cyclical nature of life.

The Legacy of Newgrange

The preservation of Newgrange is a testament to its importance in Irish history and culture. The site is a symbol of Ireland’s rich cultural heritage and is a source of pride for the Irish people. The significance of Newgrange in Irish history and culture is closely tied to the celebration of the Winter Solstice, and the site continues to be an important part of modern-day celebrations of this event.

Celtic Spiral Wedding Ring

At CladdaghRings.com we feature a great range of handmade Celtic Spiral Wedding rings inspired by the carvings found at Newgrange.

 

 

The Winter Solstice at Newgrange

Newgrange was excavated between the years 1962 to 1975 under the stewardship of Professor Michael O’Kelly, professor of Archaeology at University College Cork. During the early years of the excavation, locals would tell the professor that at certain times, the darkest recesses of the chamber would be filled with light from the rising sun. On a hunch, the professor visited the chamber on the morning of the winter solstice, 21 December, 1967 and was astonished to witness the dawn light begin to enter the passageway and travel inwards, ‘lighting up everything as it came until the whole chamber – side recesses, floor and roof six meters above the floor – were all clearly illuminated’. He was the first person to witness the winter solstice at Newgrange since ancient times.

For the people who built Newgrange, the winter solstice marked the start of the new year, and symbolized fertility and rebirth. Newgrange was not just a place of burial but an important ceremonial place for the people of the area.

Sunlight travels into the passage tomb at Newgrange.
Drawing by the OPW, shows the path of the sunlight as the travels through the roof box and down the long passage into the chamber.

The Office of Public Works, the agency responsible for the monument offers members of the public access to the passage tomb to experience the light filling the tomb on the dawn of the winter solstice. 60 places are allocated to lucky winners of an annual lottery for each year’s solstice. There were 28,595 entries for Solstice 2018, so this opportunity is only for the lucky few. The event is spread over the mornings of December 18 to December 23rd. Of course, If you are lucky enough to win a golden ticket, there is no guarantee of sunshine on an Irish winter morning.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Newgrange, the Celtic Spiral, and the Winter Solstice are all important symbols of renewal and hope. The ancient site of Newgrange, with its impressive architecture and intricate artwork, continues to inspire awe and wonder, and its celebration of the Winter Solstice is a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the Irish people. The Celtic Spiral is a powerful symbol that represents the cyclical nature of life and the importance of renewal, and it is an important part of the history and significance of Newgrange.

FAQs

What is Newgrange?

Newgrange is an ancient monument located in County Meath, Ireland. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered one of the most important prehistoric sites in the world.

What is the Celtic Spiral?

The Celtic Spiral is a symbol that has been associated with the Celts for thousands of years. The symbol represents the cyclical nature of life and is seen as a symbol of growth and renewal.

What is the Winter Solstice?

The Winter Solstice is the shortest day of the year and marks the beginning of winter. It is a time of celebration and renewal in many cultures around the world.

What is the significance of the Winter Solstice celebration at Newgrange?

The Winter Solstice celebration at Newgrange is rooted in the ancient belief that it marks the rebirth of the sun and the beginning of a new cycle of life. It is a time of renewal and hope, and it continues to be an important event for the people of Ireland to this day.

What is the relationship between the Celtic Spiral and Newgrange?

The Celtic Spiral is closely tied to the celebration of the Winter Solstice at Newgrange and is often used to decorate the site during the celebration. The spiral represents life’s cyclical nature and symbolizes growth and renewal, which is closely related to the significance of the Winter Solstice celebration at Newgrange. 

The Celtic Spiral is also an important part of the history and significance of Newgrange, as it represents the connection between the ancient Celts and their beliefs about the natural world.

 
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ngADMns8W78
The builders of Newgrange really knew astronomy!

If you wish to apply, you can fill out an application at the Newgrange visitor center.

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