1. Newgrange is one of the best examples in Western Europe of the type of monument known as a passage-grave or passage-tomb
According to the most reliable Carbon 14 dating techniques, Newgrange was constructed around 3200 BC. This means it is at least 600 years older than the Giza Pyramids in Egypt, and 1,000 years older Stonehenge.
2. Newgrange is known as a brugh, or brú, which is sometimes translated as mansion.
But the old Irish word for womb is Brú and so, Brú na Bóinne may actually be more correctly translated as Womb of the Moon, or Womb of the Bright Cow. Many researchers, archaeologists, and artists, plus your average adventurer, believe that the layout of the entrance, passage, and the chamber of Newgrange resembles the female reproductive organs.
3. Aligned with the Winter Solstice
On the Winter Solstice, the light of the rising sun enters the roof box of Newgrange and penetrates the passage, shining onto the floor of the inner chamber. The beam illuminates the inner chamber of Newgrange for just 17 minutes.
4. Newgrange was built during an age when the only building materials were stone.
Everyday tools and weapons were also made of stone. According to Clare O’Kelly, who assisted her husband Michael O’Kelly while excavating Newgrange, no metal has been found as a primary building material in any Irish passage-grave.
5. Newgrange was rediscovered in 1699.
The landowner, Charles Campbell, needed some stones and asked his workers to carry some stones away from the cairn. When those stones were moved, the entrance to this extraordinary tomb was uncovered.
6. Newgrange sits on a long ridge that is cradled by a bend of the Boyne River five miles west of Drogheda.
The entire area of the Boyne Valley has figured prominently throughout Irish history. According to legend, the foundations of Christianity were laid in the Boyne Valley. Oldbridge, two miles downstream from Newgrange, is where the Battle of the Boyne occurred in 1690.
7. Newgrange attracts almost 200,000 people each year.
This makes it the most visited archaeological monument in Ireland. (Come early!)
8. Built for an Ancient Irish King
According to ancient mythology, the Tuatha Dé Danann ruled Ireland were said to have built Newgrange as a burial place for their chief, Dagda Mór, and his three sons. One of his sons, named Aonghus, is often referred to as Aonghus of the Brugh. It is believed that he was owner of the Brugh land, and that a smaller mound between Newgrange and the Boyne was owned by the Dagda.
9. Newgrange is said to have been the place where the great mythical hero Cúchulainn was conceived by his mother Dechtine.
His spiritual father, Lugh, visited Dechtine in a dream while she stayed at the Brugh—Newgrange.
10. Linked to Swans & Stars
There’s a romantic tale of Aonghus and Caer who flew to Newgrange, living there in the form of swans, and it can be linked to the stars. (This also relates to the ancient and present astronomical importance of Newgrange.) Interestingly, Newgrange is a wintering ground for the Whooper Swans which migrate from Iceland every October and return in March. It seems these early people combined natural science and mythology, and did so quite comfortably.
11. Newgrange is built with 200,000 tons of material.
It has been estimated that its construction would have taken 30 years using a workforce of approximately 300.
12. We don’t know how the larger stones, forming the kerb, passage, and chamber of Newgrange, were brought to the site.
Many of the 550 largest stones were collected from where they’d been lying on the ground and on the hills above Newgrange. Because many of the stones were weathered, we believe they weren’t quarried. That left those ancient people with the huge task of finding the stones that could best be moved, and invent the means of moving them. These people lived in an organized community.
13. These ancient builders were highly skilled.
They grooved the top surface of the passage-roof stones, thus showing they understood redirecting water seepage from the cairn. It has kept the passage water-proof. (No small task in Ireland!) Some archaeologists believe the Newgrange site was as high as 150 feet in some areas. The passage, the chamber, and the roof were all constructed, and have survived, without mortar. The builders filled the gaps between the roof stones in the passage with sea sand and burned soil to keep the passage dry.
14. All of the Newgrange satellite sites, the passage mounds and standing stones in the area, originally had their own names.
They included “The Bed of Dagda”, “The grave of Bóinn, the wife of Nechtain”, “The Valley of Mata” (the giant monster), and “the Mound of Bones.”
15. One of the most unusual satellite sites is located to the east of Newgrange and is a large U-shaped cursus.
This is a type of monument believed to have served a grand ceremonial purpose. In recent years, archaeologists discovered a ceremonial pathway connected nearby passage-tombs to the cursus structure.
16. Stones that function as a calendar.
Archaeo-astronomer Frank Prendergast has data which shows that the Great Circle stones were both astronomical and functioned as a calendar.
17. Accurate Roofbox & Sunbeam
A survey of the roof box, passage, and chamber of Newgrange in 1972 found that the Winter Solstice orientation of the site was an original feature, and that the sophisticated constructions maximize the accuracy and length of the beam entering the chamber. A further study showed that at the time of construction the sun-beam was so accurately framed by the roof-box aperture that Newgrange could be used to determine the exact day of solstice.
18. The color of the sunrise inspired naming of “Red Mountain”
It is believed by some researchers that the color of the sunrise on the morning of Winter Solstice was the original inspiration for the name of the hill over which that sunrise occurs when viewed from Newgrange. The hill is called Red Mountain. Venus also would have been visible inside the chamber of Newgrange at certain times during its eight-year cycle.
19. One interesting finding in Newgrange are Roman coins.
Many have been found there, but the first recorded find of a Roman coin was in 1699. Coins were still being found in the 1960s when Newgrange was being excavated. These included gold coins and pendants—some of them in mint condition.
20. Largest number of carved stones in Ireland
Some very intricate and beautifully designed and carved stones are in Newgrange, but many believe the art doesn’t match that of nearby Knowth in terms of overall numbers and grandeur. Four-fifths of these incredibly decorated passage mounds, both ceremonial and scientific in design, are located in County Meath, home of Newgrange. A vast majority of the stones uncovered by archaeologists are covered with megalithic art, including the triple spiral that has come to symbolize ancient Ireland herself.