Adrianna Grayson, Matthew Moon, and Sophia Kloster


When one thinks about notable historical architecture, most would not immediately think of the Irish. However, Newgrange is an amazing feat of architecture that shows the skill and technological prowess of ancient Irish people. The beauty of this structure is legendary; However, there are many features of Newgrange that are left to the speculation of archaeologists and historians. Resultantly, archaeologists and historians have done plenty of research to try to determine the structure’s origins, functions, and history.

Newgrange is renowned for being one of the biggest passage tombs in Ireland. A passage tomb is a type of Megalithic stone structure consisting of passage ways, side chambers, and a burial chamber, which often follow geometric patterns (O’Sullivan, 35). Newgrange, for example, has a structure that follows a geometric pattern aligning the structure to astrological events (O’Sullivan, 35). This is one of the most notable assets of Newgrange, the way in which the sun lines up within the building, which demonstrates the skill the ancient Irish people exhibited in astronomy. The article “Newgrange: Ireland’s Ancient Solar Observatory,” asserts that “Newgrange is unique among the Republic of Ireland’s almost 300 passage graves” because “[i]t marks the winter solstice.” This is notable due to the fact that “Neolithic people of about 3,000 B.C. produced as accurate a solar calendar as their near contemporaries, the pyramid builders of Egypt” (Stewart, 348). Stewart also notes that though many of Ireland’s ancient tombs “face the setting mid-winter sun . . . there is no conclusive evidence that these tombs served an astronomical purpose” (Stewart, 348-349). From the individuality of Newgrange’s structure to the inconclusivity of the research on Irish passage tombs in general, it is clear that the true nature of Newgrange is unknown, yet worth admiring. Despite this uncertainty among researchers, many experts agree that those who built these structures were skilled and had a purpose in making this structure align with certain astrological events.

Additionally, despite this lack of objective fact regarding Newgrange, researchers have posed a plethora of theories. The article “Newgrange: Ireland’s Ancient Solar Observatory,” mentions that the structure might have been for farmers, and also mentions that “it has even been suggested that Newgrande appears to be a symbol of the life force itself…mound covering the passage was egg-shaped…possibly symbolizing the womb” (Stewart, 349). There are also other possible theories as to what the structure of Newgrange was meant to symbolize. The combination of the light of the winter solstice beaming down the passageway into the womb-shaped chamber could symbolize a reunion of the heavens and the earth (Purcell, 94). On the other hand, open spacious timber circles, excavated in the 1980s, suggest that a large community of people could have participated in ceremonial rituals at the site (“Visiting Newgrange,” 3). Furthermore, archaic symbolism is found in comparisons to stones and mountains. Newgrange’s construction mostly consisted of stones, which often symbolized eternity in ancient artifacts. While many other parts of the landscape are in constant shift, such as the trees and rivers, stones tend to remain the same for years on end. The mountains hold power as locations where the earth and sky meet, and the large structure of Newgrange overlooking the surrounding area acts as a parallel (Purcell, 92). Nothing has been proven in determining the symbolic meaning for the construction of Newgrange, but the astrological precision and other features of the site hardly seem to be coincidental.

Newgrange, while a mystery, is clear in its testament to the ingenious design and skill of the Irish people. There is no mistaking the generations of work that went into creating Newgrange, as one might say when they regard the pyramids or other ancient structures. As archeologists and researchers continue to work, they uncover more of the secrets and histories held within Newgrange, which reveals hidden truths about the Irish people who lived at the time.

Note: All of our progress is in the original Google Doc and you have access to it already via an invitation. Feel free to trace through that file and see who did what, and how we all contributed individually. However, for the overall submission, we wanted to submit our paper in a clean file without all of our quotations, sources, and extra work lying around. Thank you for understanding!

Works Cited:

Meighan, Ian, et al. “Newgrange: Sourcing of Its Granitic Cobbles.” Archaeology Ireland, vol. 16, no. 1, 2002, pp. 32–35. JSTOR, Accessed 27 May 2021.

Mitchell, Frank. “Notes on Some Non-Local Cobbles at the Entrances to the Passage-Graves at Newgrange and Knowth, County Meath.” The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, vol. 122, 1992, pp. 128–145. JSTOR, Accessed 27 May 2021.

O’Sullivan, Muiris, and Liam Downey. “PASSAGE TOMBS and MEGALITHIC ART.” Archaeology Ireland, vol. 26, no. 1, 2012, pp. 36–40. JSTOR, Accessed 10 May 2021.

Purcell, Brendan, and Dorothy Cross. “Newgrange: Between Sun and Stone.” The Crane Bag, vol. 2, no. 1/2, 1978, pp. 89–95. JSTOR, Accessed 27 May 2021.

Stewart, Martin D. “Newgrange: Ireland’s Ancient Solar Observatory: Shedding Light on Neolithic Achievements in Ancient Ireland.” Journal of College Science Teaching, vol. 30, no. 5, 2001, pp. 347–349. JSTOR, Accessed 18 May 2021.

“Visiting Newgrange— Science, Ritual and Curiosity.” Archaeology Ireland, 2014. JSTOR, Accessed 10 May 2021.

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