Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Brú na Bóinne


Brú na Bóinne (or Palace of Boyne) is basically a collection of tombs, mounds, and standing stones in County Meath, Ireland. This particular one is called Newgrange. It's supposed to be older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids so I guess I have now seen several of the the oldest man-made structures on earth. It was used and/or visited up until the middle ages and then everyone forgot about it until the 1960's when it was rediscovered. It is made of 90-something of the larger stones on the bottom (about 2 tons each) and countless smaller stones. They told us that the larger rocks came from about 70 miles away. This is very impressive when you take into account the fact that they had no trains or cars and that most of this area was densely wooded at the time. Whatever time that was exactly.

The top opening is a window which the sun only shines about two weeks out of the year around the time of the winter solstice. You can only see this phenomenon if you are one of the lucky hundred or so people drawn from a lottery of about 20,000. Impressive. They showed us a demonstration with an artificial light and that in and of itself was pretty cool. The beam coming through the window shines across the floor because the (extremely) narrow passage to the tomb chamber slopes up to the exact height of the window opening. Those neolithic people were precise, I tell ya.

From the size of the exterior, it is really surprising, once inside, to find yourself in such a small chamber. I think about 20 people fit in there at a time. And it is pretty cramped. I looked up to see gigantic stones stacked high above my head in a circular design and the tour guide will comforted us with the fact that they are all resting on each other with nothing to hold them in place except their own weight. I guess the fact that is has survived more than 5,000 years is comforting enough.

All of the twirly, geometric designs were my favorite part. There were so many more inside that were even better (like triangles) but, as usual, no pictures were allowed inside. It was pretty dark anyway. 

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