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This is an artist's drawing of the structure of Newgrange. It shows the entrance where light enters the tomb and the central chamber which is illuminated every midwinter.
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The Newgrange Passage Tomb

The Newgrange tomb is located in County Meath, Ireland. It was likely built around 3,200 B.C. by the people who lived in Ireland at the time. That means that it is older than the pyramids in Egypt! The tomb was discovered in 1699 and it was excavated between 1962 and 1975.

The builders of Newgrange definintely had astronomy in mind! An entrance opens to a 62 feet long passageway leading to a central chamber 20 feet high. For about 2 weeks on either side of the winter solstice, light streams through a roof box located above the entrance passage. This allows light to shine through the length of the passageway, lighting up the entire central chamber, where people must've been buried. This couldn't happened by accident. Newgrange was definitely planned out and built to face sunrise at the midwinter mark.

Many of the stones making up Newgrange are decorated, some with symbols that look very much like the Sun. Newgrange is not an observatory, but this building does show that this ancient civilization had not only knowledge of the movement of the Sun, but a deep cultural connection with the movements of the Sun, Moon and stars.

Last modified July 25, 2001 by Jennifer Bergman.

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The Summer 2010 issue of The Earth Scientist, available in our online store, includes articles on rivers and snow, classroom planetariums, satellites and oceanography, hands-on astronomy, and global warming.

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