Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Boyne valley megalthic monuments

In 1994 I returned to Ireland, it had been 30 years since I had last visited the family in Drogheda and so little seemed to of changed from my childhood memories.

I had no idea that the country has so many prehistoric monuments and even more amazing, many of them are in excellent condition and easily accessible.

I took the opportunity whilst my family and friends were at work to venture out of Drogheda into County Meath, about a 15 minute drive, to visit some incredible megalithic monuments.

The megalithic monuments that I visited are known as “passage tombs” and that is because you enter the tomb through a small opening and walk down a narrow passage into a cruciform chamber in the middle of the tomb; in England similar tombs are called Barrows.

The sites I visited are Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, Newgrange being the most famous due to its size, appearance and a “lightbox” above the tomb entrance.

Newgrange: built around 3150BC. It is surrounded by large standing stones, has a kerb of 97 stones and at the winter Solstice, the sun shines through the “lightbox” along the passage and eventually after a number of days into the cruciform chamber in the middle of the tomb. The monument is older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge.

Knowth: Built around built around 3300BC, it is a spectacular complex of tombs. The main tomb is very large and is surrounded by 18 smaller satellite mounds (small tombs). When I toured the complex in 1994 the main passage tomb was still being excavated and under-going restoration. There are two passages at Knowth which face east and west; the complex contains about 25 percent of European megalithic art.

Dowth: Most likely built around the same period as Newgrange and Knowth. The passage tomb has two passages, one is aligned on with the winter Solstice sunset, and the other passage is thought to be aligned with the moon.

About Drogheda, County Louth, Ireland. Drogheda is located about 30 kilometres North of Dublin and there is plenty of hotel accommodation available in the town. There are also local sites of interest such as Millmount and St. Lawrence’s gate, the last medieval gate of the original city walls. Maps displaying sites of interest are available throughout Drogheda.