Archaeoastronomy combines astronomy with archaeology and history to unravel the mysteries and possible intentions of buildings and the legacy of past civilizations.
The examples are abundant, prehistoric buildings whose orientation is related to the position of the stars, such as Stonehedge or some structures Maya . The sun worship and knowledge of the solstices and equinoxes is present in many cultures and civilizations now extinct, was later replaced by purely religious holidays such as Hanukkah Jewish, the Christian Christmas or the Feast of San Juan (night bonfires at many points of the Spanish coast)
Others, such as the Pyramids of Egypt , are always surrounded by speculation and theories that emerge around them. However, given the number of stars it is not difficult to guess or experiment new hypotheses that fit the layout of a given complex. Archaeoastronomy is responsible for taking the necessary measures validated on the ground and running the relevant calculations on the exact position of the stars at stake during the time of execution of the works.
Today we will deal with one of these constructions, less known than others and yet very interesting for several issues.
Newgrange was accidentally discovered in 1699 and described as “a cave” ; it was not until the 60s when it was excavated and restored thoroughly.
Perhaps the first thing that draws attention is its age. Carbon 14 tests locate their origin between 3300 and 2900 BC (period neolithic ), the order of 500 years prior to the Great Pyramid of Giza and almost 1000 to Stonehedge .
Located in the eastern part of the current Ireland is part of the neolithic complex of Brú na Bóinne . The outward appearance is of a hill surrounded by a wall. Inside the mound, made of stone carved with peat inside, runs a passage of about 18 meters, up to a third of the diameter, leading to a cross – shaped chamber. Most of the stones come from nearby, but granite and quartz had to be transported from more distant areas, which indicates that the location was specifically chosen.
The interior ceiling dome shaped primitive rises to about 6 meters. The fit of the stones has remained intact for more than 5000 years of construction, avoiding completely efficient filtering water and the effect of erosion.
The finding inside the cremated remains of 5 individuals indicates its more than likely use as a necropolis.
The tumulus is oriented astronomically so that each year, on the morning of the winter solstice, sunlight enters through an opening above the entrance, walking the corridor 18 meters to illuminate the floor of the chamber for 17 minutes. The accuracy of the guidance brings credibility to the intention of this “birth”, probably based on the observation and measurement of the inhabitants of the area during the Neolithic. Decoration stones has the spiral ( of course solar symbol) as recurring element.
You can see all these details with great quality in the video that accompanies the entrance.
You can only be accessed within Newgrange through guided tours, a service specially requested for the solstice. I remember my visit to the tumulus the existence of a draw for invitations to date as indicated. Definitely a highly recommended visit if you pass through Dublin.