New Grange

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The best known of the three large developed passage graves in the Bend of the Boyne, between Slane and Drogheda in eastern Ireland, about 50 km north of Dublin. The site was excavated by Michael O'Kelly between 1962 and 1975, and restored under his direction thereafter. The focus of the site is a vast circular cairn c.80 m across and 12 m high, retained at the base by a kerb of 97 boulders, some decorated in the style of British rock art known as megalithic art. It was built about 3200 bc. A passage, 19 m in length, leads into the mound from the southeast side and gives access to a cruciform chamber roofed by a lofty corbelled vault. The orthostats of the passage support roof slabs, but at the very front of the passage is a unique ‘roof‐box’ which allows light to shine into the tomb through a slot above the roof of the outer passage. This happens at sunrise around the time of the winter solstice, the first rays of the sun illuminating the rear wall of the chamber for about seventeen minutes.

The passage grave was originally within a stone circle, twelve pillars of which still survive. By the later Neolithic the tomb had fallen out of use, and the sides were already beginning to slump by the time Beaker‐using groups arrived in the area. The present reconstruction with vertical quartz‐clad walls has proved highly controversial; many authorities believe that the surface of the barrow was originally far less steep and covered in quartz boulders.


M. O'Kelly, 1982, Newgrange: archaeology, art and legend. London: Thames & Hudson

Subjects: Archaeology.

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