10 May 2007

Ancient Passage Ways

Friday was our last full day in Ireland. We decided to head out into the country again. So we rented a car and drove to Newgrange, an hour north of Dublin in County Meath.

The drive was beautiful. Plus I had a great time laughing every time GLH would signal a turn, but mistakenly turn on the windshield wipers instead!

Although the weather during our time in Ireland was extremely sunny, on the morning we arrived at Newgrange there was a slight mist, giving the area an appropriate air of mystery.

Built over 3,200 years ago during the Stone Age, Newgrange is a megalithic passage tomb.

For 5 days during the winter solstice, the sun enters the chamber in the center of the mound and illuminates it for 17 minutes. The remainder of the year it is pitch-black inside the chamber and passage.

The sunlight enters from a roof box directly above the entrance.

On the stone placed in front of the entrance you can see the tri-spiral design that has come to be known as Celtic, although Newgrange was built 2,500 years before the Celts arrived in Ireland. This design is repeated in numerous places around and within Newgrange as well as the neighboring sites of Knowth and Dowth.

As you enter Newgrange, you must bend for the entrance was purposely built quite low. The passage to is s-shaped, forcing you to turn and twist to get through.

The mound is built of alternating layers of stone and earth. The structure is so solid that it was withstood the weather and a few earthquakes with no damage to the interior and not a single leak.

There are 97 kerbstones at the base of the mound, many of which have megalithic designs carved into them. Additional stones are also placed about the site. Each stone weighs between 1 - 5 tons and was brought from a distance of at least 50 kilometers away.

The kerbstones and interior chamber are as they were over 5,000 years ago. The facade of the mound was recreated as archaelogists believe it may have looked using stone and quartz that were found on the site.

Additional large stones circle the center mound. Originally there may have been as many as 30-39. Although their original intent is unknown, they may have been used to track the phases of the moon.

Aditional stones were used to create circles and patterns on the lawn in front of the entrance. Again, the reason is unknown.

Newgrange is the oldest human-built structure ever to be discovered. It is approximately 600 years older than the Egyptian pyramids and 1,000 years older than Stonehenge.

Newgrange was discovered at the end of the 17th century by men looking for stones to use as building material. At that time it was described as a cave. Excavations did not begin until 1962.

Newgrange is located at a curve in the River Boyne and in the same area as the Battle of the Boyne.

Fought 1690, the Battle of the Boyne is the battle that took place in Ireland between a Scotsman (King James II) and a Dutchman (William of Orange) to decide who would be the King of England. It was the largest single battle to ever take place in Ireland and involved more than 60,000 soldiers.

After leaving Newgrange, we drove through Drogheda and along the coast of the Irish Sea.

Then we headed for Maynooth, where I lived from August 1990 through June 1991.

Unfortunately, we came upon a great deal of road construction. After it took us 45 minutes to drive approximately 5 kilometers, it became obvious that a visit to Maynooth would not happen.

So we turned back and returned the car before heading into Dublin to meet my friend, Audrey, and her husband, Des, for dinner. As we hadn't seen each other in 16 years, there was quite a lot of catching up to do!

After dinner we went to a pub for drinks andmore chatting. However, there wasn't much chatting because it was salsa night and too difficult to shout over the music. Instead we laughed at all the 20-somethings pretending they knew how to salsa, but really more involved with learning the mating dance.

Here we are laughing at a Land Shark, that cunning urban predator who tends to prey upon young, single women.
In this case, he worked his way through the crowd until he was doing the "White Man Shuffle" right next to a group of young, single women. While "dancing," he would stare at them until they became uncomfortable and moved away from him. He repeated this process again and again with different groups of women. You have to wonder if he will ever figure out that this method does not work.