Monday, September 27, 2010

Bru na Boinne

September 26.  Bru na Boinne provided me a good deal to ponder.  What a miraculously spiritual place.  The energy here was overwhelming.  I visited Newgrange first.  What is prominently seen today is a controversial  reconstruction of the white quartz stone into a wall.  I agree with the Knouth interpretation that this quartz would have provided a decorative apron terrace rather than a wall.  This is the only passage tomb where visitors are allowed to enter.  I was impressed by the skill of the ancient megalithic masons who were able to engineer and construct a corbled vault that has stood for more than 5000 years.  Not only that, these people had the skill to carve intricate designs into the rocks.  As we walked into the chamber, I took a vantage point that happened to be right next to an intricately carved fern leaf.  Stunning, and the only one of its kind anywhere in the chamber.  Many of the other designs featured spirals and curvilinear shapes.  Newgrange has a window that precisely aligns with the sunrise on the winter solstice.  See above picture.  Certainly, the ancients were in touch with the stars, and their knowledge of astronomy was profound.  As the agricultural society developed, the calendar became an essential tool.  Observation of the sun was how the year was measured.  The monoliths surrounding the burial mound seem to provide an obvious reference for the movement of the sun, the shadow. 
As the sun moves across the sky, the position of the shadow changes as well.  The interesting part is how spirituality must have driven them to exert enormous amounts of effort to build monuments of staggering proportions.  The foundation rocks are huge, and some weigh up to 10 tonnes.
  Knouth is the largest of the chamber tombs and was the highlight of the day. 
I climbed the stairs to the strategic viewpoint at the top of the mound where generations of towns had been founded and destroyed over several millennia of occupation.  I had a compass, and observed that the entrance passage was indeed aligned to the east.  The views were fantastic, and I took one from each of the cardinal directions for reference

North
West.  The Boyne river winds its way towards Slane. 
Along this river was the site of the great battle between the Williamite and Jacobite armies where 60,000 men fought in 1690 where William's victory resulted in a continuation of Protestant rule in Ireland.
South.  You can see Newgrange to the SW.  East was obscured by a tree, but Dowth is over that way.
Excellent park as well, with top notch facilities and guides.  Certainly one of the great sites of the world and a must see for anyone who visits Ireland.

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