Newgrange and the Boyne Valley monuments

Newgrange and the Boyne Valley monuments – advanced lunar calculations and observation of the effects of precession of equinoxes in Neolithic Ireland - Part 1

Near the east coast of Drogheda, about 30 miles north of the Irish capital city, Dublin, lie the remains of a vast prehistoric monumental landscape. Newgrange and its sister sites at the Brú na Bóinne complex were built more than 5,000 years ago. These giant stone edifices survive today, along with a smattering of other smaller archaeological monuments.

Archaeologists say Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth were tombs, built in ancient times to provide somewhere to bury the dead. And yet, the passage and chamber of Newgrange are aligned so that the beams of the winter solstice sun enter into the deepest part of the chamber at dawn on the shortest days of the year. This is accepted as a key aspect of the design of Newgrange, and is not something that happens by chance.

In addition, the number of bone fragments found inside Newgrange hardly constitutes evidence of a communal burial chamber. In total, the bones of only five individuals were found inside the monument during excavations in the 1960s. Admittedly, some bones could have been taken away after the rediscovery of the entrance to the passage and chamber in 1699. But at over 85 metres in diameter, and containing over a quarter of a million tonnes of stone and earth, this monument would seem such a lavish and grandiose tomb for a few mere mortals, if that were indeed its sole purpose.

NewGrangeIn addition to the fact that the chamber of Newgrange accepts sunlight at dawn on winter solstice, there are several other aspects of its design, its alignments, its cosmology and its mythology that command the attention of those exploring its true functions. And there are several aspects of Newgrange that remain a puzzle to archaeologists.

Up until 1967, after archaeological excavation, conservation and restoration work, it was not possible for the light of the sun to illuminate the interior. This was due to slow subsidence of the roofing stones of the passage, which had slowly sunk as the supporting orthostats leaned inwards over the long centuries. Before 1967, when archaeologist Professor Michael O’Kelly became the first person to witness the solstice event in modern times, nobody could have witnessed this phenomenon. And yet, local folklore held that the sun shone into Newgrange on the shortest day of the year. O’Kelly points to this as being one of the reasons for his visit to the chamber in December 1967 when he became the first person to witness the alignment in the modern era.

In addition to the local folklore describing the solstice alignment, several authors had previously suggested its passage was aligned towards winter solstice sunrise. General Charles Vallancey had hinted at it in the eighteenth century. In 1909, astronomer and Solar Physics Observatory director, Sir Norman Lockyer, stated that Newgrange was orientated towards winter solstice sunrise. In 1911, W.Y. Evans-Wentz implied the same thing.

But the astronomical mysteries of Newgrange run much deeper than all this. In 1958, in his book about primitive mythology, Joseph Campbell recounted a folk tale from the Boyne Valley in which a local had told him the light of the Morning Star, Venus, shone into the chamber of Newgrange at dawn on one day every eight years and cast a beam upon a stone on the floor of the chamber containing two worn sockets. This might seem like an incredible suggestion, except for the fact that it is astronomically accurate. Venus follows an eight-year cycle and on one year out of every eight, it rises in the pre-dawn sky of winter solstice and its light would be able to be seen from within the chamber.

Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas, authors of Uriel’s Machine, suggest that a series of eight x-shaped markings on the lintel stone of the aperture above the entrance of Newgrange – the so-called ‘roof box’ which allows light into the chamber – represent the eight-year cycle of Venus. However, they were not aware when writing their wonderful book of the story that had been told to Joseph Campbell about the Morning Star shining into the chamber.

How did local people living in the Boyne Valley in the 1950s come into the possession of knowledge describing an astronomical phenomenon that was likely to have taken place at Newgrange in the ancient past? This is a question not easily answered by archaeologists. No-one could have witnessed Venus in the chamber of Newgrange in the middle of the twentieth century because not only had the passage roof subsided, but the whole roof box aperture was completely blocked up with soil and grass, as is evidenced from photographs of the time. Indeed, it is unlikely that anybody had seen light from either the sun or Venus shining into the chamber of Newgrange since entrance was rediscovered in 1699. It would have been impossible, given the structural condition of the monument, to view such an occurrence.

So how far back did this folklore go, if the penetration of light from the sun or Venus was not observable in the three centuries after the 1699 rediscovery? When Newgrange was excavated in the twentieth century, it was found that a great amount of the cairn had “slipped” over the retaining kerbstones at some remote epoch. All of the great kerbstones – there are 97 in total, each weighing an average of three tonnes, or the weight of an Asian elephant – had been covered when this collapse occurred, as indeed had been the entrance and the roofbox. Astonishingly, archaeologists tell us the cairn slip happened around 500 years after the monument was built. Given the estimated construction date of approximately 3,150BC, this means the cairn had slipped around 2,650BC, at that period in time marking the end of the Neolithic and the beginning of the Bronze Age. According to the archaeologists, Newgrange lay hidden for four thousand years. Its appearance was that of a miniature tree-covered hill, with just a few of the outer Great Circle of stones visible.

In his 1911 book about Fairy-Faith in the Celtic countries, W.Y. Evans-Wentz said: “But when we hear legendary tales which have never been recorded save in the minds of unnumbered generations of men, we ought not on that account to undervalue them; for often they are better authorities and more trustworthy than many an ancient and carefully inscribed manuscript in the British Museum; and they are probably far older than the oldest book in the world.”

We might agree. In the twentieth century, folk memory had preserved knowledge of astronomical occurrences at Newgrange that could not have been witnessed at the time. Given the archaeological evidence – firstly that the passage stones had subsided, and secondly that the cairn slippage had concealed the passage and chamber since the late Neolithic – it seemed that this knowledge might go right back towards the time when Newgrange had been built.

Part 2.

By Anthony Murphy


I at one time visited New Grange. I and a friend were the last two people of the group who went inside with the guide,When we were in the big round inner chamber the light was switched off to give us the impression how dark it was in there and the guide started to tell a story. All of a sudden immediately after she switched of the lights, a beautifull dark night blue light started whirling itself around me, it felled like it was alive and intelligent, in the light were symbols some of which i had seen there and also others which i did not know, a voice inside my head told me "This was a place to heal" I had the impression that it was a very sacred place where the sick were brought to heal.I am paranormally gifted and at times have witnessed strange things, i don't use any drugs and i am a very down to earth analytical type of person who by nature was never really very interested to explore the paranormal .I always wondered if others maybe might have been spoken to by the blue light also and what it had communicated .This blue light left me in awe.

Now in our World there are four types of people. The Wolves, The Rats, The Sheep, and The Sheppard's. My Ancestors were that of the Sheppard's. They fought for the deserving, they fed the hungry, they knighted their Kings, they lent the knowledge given to us by our creators, they were deceived by the ones who now run our planet. Man kinds origin started here and my blood tells me through dreams it ends here. For we are un savable selfish parasites eating our mother earth into oblivion. May all our children be given a second chance is the most we could ever hope for. Those who have wronged our Gods may your blood burn for it belongs extinct. Powers, Barton, Talbot, and Sons Sons built Grange along with our Worlds. True story. You wont find that one here in the Nazi's Net!

I am interested that you mention Talbot in connection with New Grange. Talbot is my maternal grandmother's line, originally from Ireland. I'm 5 generations Australian now. When I visited New Grange in 1988 I felt it very special to me and did not want to leave! Can you tell me more about this connection of Grange with the 3 names Talbot, Barton and Powers?

Justbod's picture

Great article with some really interesting ideas. I also enjoyed the video on Ancient Origins featuring Anthony Murphy. I love Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth - bewitching places!

Sculptures, carvings & artwork inspired by a love of history & nature:




I've worn one of these triple spirals as a necklace for years and really love it's shape. I've always doodled like this for the last 50 years too. Something inside responds..

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Concept art of Queen Anne’s Revenge, based on the Pirates of the Caribbean prop for ‘The Black Pearl’
History records Blackbeard as one of the most notorious pirates; but his early years weren’t as infamous or inglorious. Edward Teach, the man who would later become the pirate known as Blackbeard, had a relatively normal childhood. His criminal lifestyle that brought him fame later in life wasn’t fueled by exposure to a sketchy upbringing.

Myths & Legends

A vase-scene from about 410 BC. Nimrod/Herakles, wearing his fearsome lion skin headdress, spins Noah/Nereus around and looks him straight in the eye. Noah gets the message and grimaces, grasping his scepter, a symbol of his rule - soon to be displaced in the post-Flood world by Nimrod/Herakles, whose visage reveals a stern smirk.
The Book of Genesis describes human history. Ancient Greek religious art depicts human history. While their viewpoints are opposite, the recounted events and characters match each other in convincing detail. This brief article focuses on how Greek religious art portrayed Noah, and how it portrayed Nimrod in his successful rebellion against Noah’s authority.

Human Origins

Cro-Magnon man communicating with each other and producing cave drawings
How human language began has been a question pestering researchers for centuries. One of the biggest issues with this topic is that empirical evidence is still lacking despite our great advances in...

Ancient Technology

The School of Athens
Much of modern science was known in ancient times. Robots and computers were a reality long before the 1940´s. The early Bronze Age inhabitants of the Levant used computers in stone, the Greeks in the 2nd century BC invented an analogue computer known as the Antikythera mechanism. An ancient Hindu book gives detailed instructions for the construction of an aircraft –ages before the Wright brothers. Where did such knowledge come from?

Ancient Places

Artist’s representation of the sealed door of Vault B at Padmanabhaswamy Temple.
Ropes of gold several meters long, Napoleonic coins, Venetian jewelry, diamond belts, emeralds the size of ostrich eggs, and barrels of golden rice…these are just some of the treasures said to have been hidden within Padmanabhaswamy Temple. But insufferable dangers may also be lurking for those who dare to open the temple’s mysterious sealed door. Would you take the risk?

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article