Newgrange is an epic structure which is of particular interest because it tells us that the people of early Dublin were far more civilized and intelligent than one may initially believe. Modern scientific and mathematic knowledge is far beyond that which was available to the people of 3200 BC, yet the builders of Newgrange show a keen understanding of the physics of light. This ancient passage tomb once served as a connection between the people of Ireland and the gods, and thus the care with which it was built exemplifies the reverence with which even the earliest Irish people held religion. Although James Joyce alludes to the idea that religion served as a largely oppressive power against scientific inquiry in his essay Ireland, Island of Saints and Sages, the complex structure of Newgrange displays to us that religion, in this case, inspired intellectual development.
The Entrance Stone
The Entrance Stone at Newgrange shows incredible artistic detail. This detail not only displays the skill of early Dubliners, but also the great respect with which they held the Winter Solstice and the cultural importance they placed on the event. The carvings on this rock predominantly feature a large triple spiral, a design which is also found inside the tomb. This triple spiral has now become one of the most famous Irish Megalithic symbols. It was likely either a sort of homage to the power of the sun (as the symbol inside of the tomb was lit by the rising sun during the Winter Solstice), or a representation of the three large mounds in the landscape of the area. Although the meaning of all of these engravings cannot be definitively pinned down, it is speculated that the Entrance Stone served as a sort of map of the area, with all of the shapes alluding to different features of the surrounding landscape. Despite the mysterious true meaning of the Entrance Stone, it cannot be argued that it is a breathtaking feature of this monument which exemplifies the skill and culture of the people of 3200 BC Ireland.
Exploring Newgrange in virtual reality transported me to a time of great skill and intellect. The ‘whig historiography’ of today’s people leads us to believe that ancient people were, to put it plainly, unintelligent. However, Newgrange disproves this idea. Its ingenuity reminds me of the Egyptian pyramids, another set of monuments which stand in stark contrast to whig historiography. The exploration of this great landmark gives rise to a thirst for more information that will prove that the people of the past were more intellectually similar to those of today than we, as a culture, are led to believe.