5000 year old passage tombs dot the landscape at Bru na Boyne, making them 1000 years older than Stonehenge and 500 years older than the Great Pyramid at Giza. The largest of these passage tombs is at Knowth and measures 90 metres in diameter with east facing and west facing openings aligned to the sun, while the tomb at Newgrange is aligned similarly. These immense, imposing mounds of earth are surrounded by a curtain of enormous, engraved rocks, each weighing several tonnes. These grave mounds took at least a decade to build, and as the wheel was yet to be invented, these stones had to be quarried 10 miles away, brought to the site probably by boat (coracles), put onto log rollers to be heaved uphill to their position and then the process started again!!! The question that begs asking is ‘Why’? Given that the archaeologists believe there were around 200 people living in the area, it would have been a massive undertaking. My answer…….Aliens.
At Newgrange we were able to enter the tomb and follow a cruciform passageway to the centre of the tomb to see the cremation stones and the engravings. A simulated sunrise showed how the sunlight crept along the passage to illuminate the chamber.
We went to the site of the Battle of Boyne where 60,000 troops faced off, making it the largest battle ever fought in the UK. For us it put the ‘Orange March’ into a context, as this event was being undertaken while we were in Ireland. The ‘orange’ is William of Orange who was the Protestant leader of this battle which his forces eventually won. Sadly, to this day, there is still acrimony between the ‘sides’ 320 years after the event.
These chambers were abandoned for 2000 years and were used by others as firstly villages and later were surrounded by fences, ditches and then stone walls. Bunkers were also built into them as a form of protection from attack, but excavated bones indicate this was not a successful form of defence.