Brú na Bóinne
First of all, how do you say this? If you are not Irish and you’re wondering how to pronounce it as an English speaker, it sounds like “Bruna boyne ye”.
Brú na Bóinne means the palace or mansion of the Boyne, referring to the Boyne river along which Brú na Bóinne is found. It’s also known as the “Valley of tombs”. It’s one of the world’s most important prehistoric sites, having been inscribed as a World Heritage Site in 1993, being a masterpiece of human creative genius, type of architecture representing a significate stage of human development and bearing testimony to a past civilisation.
At Brú na Bóinne there are 3 large scale passage tombs: Knowth, Dowth and Newgrange. Besides the 3 tombs, there are 90 monuments, megalithic art and henges.
The area has been settled in as long ago as 6000 years ago, with Neolithic tombs as old as 5000 years old.
When you arrive at Brú na Bóinne, your journey will start at the Vistors Center from which the tours to either New Grange, Knowth or both depart. The Visitors Center itself is worth a mention, blending into surrounding landscape.
The Vistors Center has some interesting information about life for the Brú na Bóinne residents, it’s tombs and surroundings. There is an audio visual presentation about the sunlight which streams along the passage of Newgrange during the winter solstice.
The tour buses depart across the river from the Vistors Center.
Newgrange was built before Knowth, in about 3200BC during the Neolithic period. This makes Newgrange older than Stonehenge and even the Egyptian Pyramids. (Stonehenge dates back to 3100BC and the Egyptian Pyramids in 2630BC).
The mound at Newgrange is made up of 97 kerbstones, some of which is decorated with megalithic art.
What makes Newgrange special is that the first light of the winter solstice shines through the roof box over the entrance and runs along the passage and illuminates the tomb. This event lasts only 17 minutes at dawn during the winter solstice, as well as a few mornings either side of the dawn of the winter solstice. It is believed that the Brú na Bóinne residents who lived during the Neolithic period would have acknowledged the dependance that we have on the sun and the joy experienced at the end of the winter and the start of the summer.
Unfortunately photographs aren’t allowed in the inside of the tomb, but if you go there, the one amazing thing you can experience is that they will put off the lights, then demonstrate how the light would shine down the passage and illuminate the tomb as it would during the winter solstice (if the sun happens to shine!)
Knowth would have been built about 5000 years ago (soon after the construction of Newgrange) and comprises of 1 large mound with an Eastern and a Western passage tomb. 18 Smaller mounds surround the large mound. Around the mound are quartz, granite and banded stones.
At Knowth, visitors will see a circular timber structure which was build to display how the ancient monument would have looked, which was discovered at the site. It was originally build in approximately 2500BC using Grooved Ware pottery on the wooden structure. It may also have been roofed.
During the tour visitors will be shown the inside of the tomb and shown the entrance of the Eastern passage.
In early Christian times Knowth was used for it’s vantage point as a military defence and there is a ditch on the inside of the tomb that visitors can see.
The inside of the tomb at Knowth showcases megalithic artwork, which comprise of spirals, chevrons, arcs, parallel lines, lozenges and triangles.
My overall impression is that Brú na Bóinne is a wondrous and special place. You have a sense of awe as you look at the old structures that were build before the Egyptian Pyramids or Stonehenge. Now that I have experienced it, I can highly recommend it.