One of Ireland's most infamous monuments and archaeological sites, Newgrange is amongst the Bru na Boinne World Heritage sites next to Knowth and Dowth. It is popular like Stonehenge with its Solstice astronomical line-ups and viewing of the sun as it appears through its portal. The monument is a large mound complex shaped like a giant kidney covering an area of about an acre of land and is surrounded by 97 kerbstones most of which are decorated by megalithic rock art. Newgrange is one of the best examples in Ireland and Western Europe of a passage grave or tomb. Constructed around 3200 BCE, this site is older than the Egyptian pyramids and a 1,000 years older than Stonehenge. Located along a elongated ridge on the Boyne River, five miles west of Drogheda, and close to the location where the Battle of the Boyne took place in 1690. Built entirely wih stone tools the Faerie Sidhe (folklore) or Passage Grave (Archaeology) is an impressive monument: The purpose of the monument is disputed greatly as there is no evidence that Newgrange was used as a repository for bodies, bones, burial artifacts or ash. Mythology tells us that the Tuatha Dé Danann, legendary first rulers of Ireland, built Newgrange as a burial place for their chief - the Dagda Mór with his three sons. The site is also believed to be where the hero Cúchulainn was conceived by his mother Dechtine. Also listed in mythology as a Faerie Mound, it was believed to have been the home of Oenghus, the God of Love. Other theories are that it was a place of worship for a "cult of he dead" or for astronomically-based faiths. Visitors can only access Newgrange via bus shuttle from the visitor center at Brú na Bóinne and those wishing to see the Winter Solstice sunrise light-up has to be awarded via lottery for the experience with a select few other lottery winners. A 19 meter long inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. At the end of the passage are three small chambers off the larger central chamber. Each of the smaller chambers has a large flat 'basin stone' which is where it is believed the bones of the dead were originally deposited. During the Winter Solstice, lights of the rising sun enters the roofbox - lighting up the passage, and shining onto the floor of the inner chamber - illuminating the room for 17 minutes. Megalithic Rock Art surrounds the monument with some world notable pieces such as the triskel carved on the entrance stone, Kerbstone 1 and 52. Other rock art carvings fit into one of ten categories, five of which are curvilinear (circles, spirals, arcs, serpentiniforms, and dot-in-circles), and the other five are rectilinear (chevrons, lozenges, radials, parallel lines and offsets). Intriguing archaeological finds were found throughout the site, including Roman coins, an iron wedge, and a stone phallus. It is believed to have taken 20 years to build with a work force dedicated all of those years full time of 300 individuals. Under the burial tomb theory, it is believed to have been sealed and closed for several millenia after which the local folklore and mythology of the faeries were believed to be assigned to the mound. The site was used for ritual purposes well into the Iron Age. The Passage tomb was re-discovered in 1699 when material for road building was being harvested from the mound. A large excavation of the mound took place in 1962 as well as the rebuilding of the original facade of sparkling white quartz stones found at the site. Newgrange has been compared to the Gavrinis passage tomb in Brittany for which it is very similar to. The Gavrinis cairn is 5,500 years old; 60 meters in diameter, and covers a passage and chamber that is lined with elaborately engraved stone. Newgrange is built of alternating layers of earth and stone with grass growing atop, and the front reconstructed facade is of flattish white quartz stone studded at intervals with large rounded cobbles covering the circumference.
One of Irelands most famous Neolithic passage graves, Knowth is in the valley of the Boyne River, at the ancient monument of Brú na Bóinne nearby famous Newgrange. This monument was built after Newgrange, roughly 5,000 B.C.E. (Before the Common Era). It is believed to have been built before Dowth. It is similiar in size to Newgrange, but is surrounded by 18 satellite mounds. The 'Great Mound' has two passages with entrances in the opposite sides - passage on the west is 34 meters long, passage on the east is 40 meters long, both ending at a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof. Mythologically believed to be a Faerie mound - A Sidhe - Archaeologists catalogue the site as a passage grave based on three recesses and basin stones found within the chambers into which the cremated remains of the dead were placed. The monument also has astronomical features. Tied in with Dowth and Newgrange, the area has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993. The only access to the site is via guided tour from the Bru na Boinne Visitor Center that take place from April thru October. Excavations begun at Knowth in 1962, and in 1967 the discovery of the first passage and chamber were accomplished. Later excavations revealed the second passage and chamber, as well as a collection of rock art and decorated stones that amount to a quarter of Western European Neolithic Rock Art. Excavations revealed pottery, flint, houses, and other artifacts that determined Neolithic settlement around 4,000 B.C.E. Rock formations and art signify calendars, sundials, calendar stones, and stones to calculate the lengths of the lunar tropical month - 'synodic' and the length of the year in the Lunar Stone. The Calendar Stone seems to track the 'Metonic Cycle' of the Moon. The Main Mound has 124 existing Kerbstones forming the Kerb that at its base that are circular and measuring 80 meters east-west by 95 meters (north-south). Most of the Kerbstones forming this Kerb are oblong and average 2.5 meters in length. This is the largest of all passage graves in the area. There are over 200 decorated stones found here containing a wide variety of images from crescents, spirals, lozenges, and serpentiforms that have been carved on the stones with some 'hidden art' on the backs of the stones. There is also evidence for late Neolithic and Bronze Age activity, most of which is based from the existence of grooved ware timber circles located near the entrance of the eastern passage. Evidence for rituals here consists of a large number of votive offerings found in and around the area of the timbers. Knowth was used by the Normans in the 12th century. The site was also used briefly as a burial site with over 35 cist graves found on site that appear to be Celtic burials. Many of the bodies buried here were female. Two young men were buried - decapitated and buried together with a gaming set. During Christian occupation, the hill became a fort with encircling ditches and souterrains added converting the site into a habitation site. The monument fell into the hands of the monks of the Mellifont Abbey nearby. The mound was then later used as a grange or farm with stone walls construced atop and stone buildings within those walls. When the monasteries were dissolved the site was taken over by the state in 1939.
"Bru na Boinne" is the name of a Boyne River Valley section that is home to the World Heritage sites consisting of the Tumulus Sidhe known as "Knowth", "Dowth", and "Newgrange". These monuments are the largest and one of the most important prehistoric megalithic sites in Europe that consist of a complex of neolithic chamber tombs, standing stones, henges, and other prehistoric enclosures dating as early as 35th century B.C.E. (predating the Egyptian pyramids) The Palace is centrally the name for the visitor center that is home to a museum, cafe, interpretive displays, information center, and central shuttle bus location for visitors to get to Knowth and Newgrange. It is located in County Meath near the village of Donore along the south bank of the Boyne River. The large oval stones in the water feature are 330 million year old naturally occuring concretions that make the site a geological attraction as well. The Sidhe/Tumulus of Newgrange and Knowth are to the north of the Boyne. The site covers over 780 hectare acres with over 40 passage graves, prehistoric sites, hengestones, circles, and features as well as substantial Megalithic rock art. Each of the monuments are on a ridge within the river bend, with Knowth and Newgrange containing stones re-used from earlier monuments at the site. The sites were visited repeatedly and re-used during various ages such as the Bronze Age, Iron Age, and Medieval periods adding assortments of artifacts, features, and enclosures to the site throughout the years. In addition to the famous tombs/tumulus of Knowth, Dowth, and Newgrange are also the ceremonial complexes known as Cloghalea Henge, Townleyhall passage grave, Monknewtown henge and ritual pond, and the Newgrange cursus. Newgrange stands as the central mound of the Boyne Valley passage grave cemetery. Each of these three main tumulus sites have archaeo-astronomical significance and alignments. Newgrange and Dowth have Winter Solstice solar alignments, and Knowth has an Equinox solar alignment. The complex areas are surrounded on the south, west, and east by the Boyne river, and to the north by the Mattock river.