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 Location: Boyne Valley, Meath, Ireland.  Grid Reference: 53° 40' 60 N. 6° 28' 0 W

 

      Boyne Valley Complex:.

The Boyne valley complex is recognised as one of the jewels in Europe's megalithic crown. The passage mounds of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth were built around 3200 BC (1), and the huge investment in labour and technical expertise reflects the importance of this particular site to the Neolithic builders.

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    (Click here for map of the site)

 

    The Boyne Valley Complex: (Brugh na Bóinne).

Location - River Boyne, County Meath, Ireland.

Description - The Boyne Valley complex is one of Europe's greatest megalithic sites. It was constructed at around 3,200 BC, the same time as several other prominent European megalithic complexes. It is clear from the orientation of the passage-mounds that the whole complex was devoted to accurate measuring of both the lunar and solar cycles simultaneously.

The site was surveyed by Dr. Jon Patrick, who said of it:

'It has been shown that the Boyne valley monuments were probably laid out to a design plan' (2).

 

The three main features of the complex are the passage mounds named Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. At present Newgrange is open throughout the year, Knowth is open for parts of the year only, and Dowth is closed the whole year round, but is free to roam around the outside.

    

Knowth, Newgrange and Dowth.

The manpower and organisation behind the construction of these monuments is on a civil scale. The guides at the site tell us that the average human lifetime at that time was only 35 years and they estimate it took 70 years to build, from which we can assume they weren't built as tombs...

 

 

   Boyne Valley Art:

 Cultural connections with other European megalithic sites. 

The art of the Boyne valley shows similarities with art from megalithic structures in France, Scotland and Malta as the following examples illustrate:`

Kerbstones from Newgrange K-52 (left) and Knowth (right).

Gavr'inis, France:

Newgrange: Spiral art.

The inscribed kerb-stone that lies directly in front of the entrance to the Newgrange passage mound has the triple spiral on the left hand side (also seen on the wall inside the chamber). Almost identical art has been found on the Orkneys, and variations of it can be seen throughout the ancient world.

Spiral kerbstone from Newgrange.

Orkneys, Scotland:

A rare piece of Neolithic art was found on a beach by an Orkney plumber :

The 6,000-year-old relic, thought to be a fragment from a larger piece, was left exposed by storms. Local plumber David Barnes, who found the stone on the beach in Sandwick Bay, South Ronaldsay, said circular markings had shown up in the late-afternoon winter sun, drawing his attention to the piece.

Archeologists last night heralded the discovery as a "once-in- 50-years event". But they warned that a search for other fragments in the area would be hampered by a lack of funds.  Archaeologists compared the discovery to the Westray Stone (below), a Neolithic carved stone discovered in 1981 during routine quarrying work. It has been in Orkney Museum for more than 25 years but is due to be returned to the area this week and exhibited in the new Westray Heritage Centre in Pierowall.

The Westray Stone, Orkneys.

The Westray Stone was once part of a Neolithic chambered cairn which is thought to have been destroyed in prehistory. A second part, and two smaller carved pieces, were found the following spring in a dig led by Niall Sharples, of the University of Cardiff.

"The stone is perhaps from a chambered tomb and could be as old as 5,000 or 6,000 years, and would have possibly been used as a ceremonial, sacred object. This is art made in the same style as art from the Newgrange stone tomb in Ireland or tombs in Brittany. It's part of this Neolithic world linked by the Irish Sea."  The world heritage site at Newgrange in County Meath is estimated to be 600 years older than the Giza pyramids in Egypt.

The stone will now be passed to Orkney Museum and brought to the attention of the Queen and Lord Treasurer's Remembrancer to determine if it is a treasure trove or not. Ancient objects without an owner are automatically property of the Crown. But Mrs Gibson added: "An object like this becomes the property of everyone."

Ref: (http://news.scotsman.com/)

 

Maltese Art: The Maltese temples are covered with various versions of the spiral form.

This stone is from Bugibba temple on Malta.

 

Sill-Stone Symbolism:

The stone above the light-box at Newgrange has eight (possibly nine originally), crosses on the side face. This exact design is seen at another site in Ireland (Fourknocks), and at Gavr'inis in France, where the stone is on the floor, halfway along the passage.

Newgrange, eastern recess, (left), Light-box (right)

Sill-stones at Fourknocks (Left) and Gavr'inis (Right), where it is found on the floor of the passage.

(More about light-boxes)

 

 

 

This exquisite mace-head (right), was found at Knowth.

The flint itself comes from the Orkney islands, which are by no means the nearest source of flint to the Boyne valley.

It is one of several clues that testify to a cultural exchange between these two important megalithic complexes, along with the style of art, exterior and interior similarities in design of the passage mounds (Maes Howe) and a strong astronomical theme underlying the development of the structures. 

 

 

 

 

 

Astronomy at the Boyne Valley:

 - 'The map of the external design plan of the complex (see above) demonstrates a concern with solstices, equinoxes and cross-quarter days' (2). There are 97 kerbstones on Newgrange, and only three of them are fully carved, their astronomical positioning is 'highly significant', and it is the clear from the extra energy involved in creating accurate alignments and orientations that astronomy played a fundamental role in the structures existence.

A Cursus 'of unknown length' (3), has been found just east of Newgrange. It is similarly orientated to the mid-winter solstice, as is the passage mound itself.

(More about Cursus')

 

While it is suspected that the passage mounds and their satellites served a functional role (as a means of measuring solar and lunar cycles), the Boyne Valley passage-mounds are just one part of a larger prehistoric landscape, in which megalithic constructions (and through them the builders themselves) were connected by alignment and orientation amongst each other and beyond to the very universe itself.

The Boyne-valley complex is intervisible with other prominent megalithic sites such as:

 Tara Hill, Loughcrew and Four-knocks.

 

    

(Other Neolithic Western European Complexes)

(Passage Mounds)

(Other prehistoric Irish sites)

 

 

References:

1). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newgrange

 

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