Our family
« Driving along the coastal highway of Northern Ireland | Main | A small country town in Ireland »

The Neolithic chambers of Brú na Bóinne 

Thanks to the ineptitude of RyanAir, Luke and Shyla didn't get into Maynooth until past 2am, so we changed our travel plans a little and I spent the morning showing them what could possibly be my future hometown before catching the train back to Dublin to pick up our hire car.

Luke drove us from Dublin to Slane, unphased by his first time driving on the left-hand side of the road. Slane is a tiny village north of Dublin, of only around 1000 people. It has Slane Castle (unfortunately closed on Fridays), the Four Sisters (four large stone houses at the intersection of the two highways, by legend built facing inwards so that the four nosey sisters could spy on each other) and a number of rather crummy places to eat.

We were in Slane to visit Brú na Bóinne, one of the three World Heritage sites on the island of Ireland. It is one of the largest prehistoric megalithic sites in Europe, in fact of the 900 or so megalithic carvings in Europe, around 600 are in Brú na Bóinne. The area has multiple ancient complexes (older than Stonehenge or the Pyramids), including chamber tombs, standing stones and henges, dating back as old as 3500 BCE. Remains  found at Brú na Bóinne have been used to reconstruct the life history of the ancient peoples, showing that on average men lived to be 29 and were 5'8", while women lived to be 26 and were 5'6" (but a small number of people lived out into their 50s).

We went to the burial mound of Newgrange. The mound at Newgrange is 76m across and 12m tall, built in a circle on the hill-top to house the narrow 18m long passage into the small central chamber (with a 6m high roof). The hill had been covered for thousands of years by landslides from the mound, but when it was discovered in the 17th century the tunnel and chamber were still intact (due to the incorporation of gutters and waterproofing with burned clay and sea-sand putty). The archaeologist who restored the site assumed that the large amount of quartz stones found in the landslip were part of a retaining wall facing  the sunrise (but others have claimed it was actually a paved landing out the front). All up, the makers had to haul in 1/4 million tonnes of stone to build the monument, and even more impressively they had a stunning understanding of astronomy as it was designed such that at sunrise on winter solstice (21st December) a beam of light will enter the roofbox above the passage way and illuminate the central chamber for 17 minutes. Actually this doesn't occur until four minutes after sunrise, but this is due to the slight changes in the earth's rotation that have occurred over the past five thousand years.

It was very interesting to see, and even more to be inside, this ancient monument. Mind-boggelling to think that genetically we are identical to these ancient peoples, and any child of theirs raised today would be indistinguishable from us, and conversely the break in the transmission of modern science for a single generation would make our children indistinguishable from them.

References (1)

References allow you to track sources for this article, as well as articles that were written in response to this article.
  • Response
    Response: Hollister
    Hi, this essay is despite the small, but rich in content. Reverie verbiage. If you want to see details:Hollister

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>