The neolithic monuments of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, Loughcrew, Carrowkeel and Carrowmore are remarkable and fascinating reminders of very early Ireland history. This article will look at the building process and possible use of these buildings and the underlying religion in ancient Ireland.
The photo below of the corballed ceiling at the largest tomb at Loughcrew (near Navan) gives an idea how much planning and forethought had to go into building these structures during the Irish stone age. The building process of passage tombs was very complex. They were no doubt built with eternity in mind. Weight, mass, gravity and the penetration of rain water were all taken into account in the design.
It is likely that the large blocks of rock (megaliths) were transported using ropes and wooden ramps. Professor O'Kelly, the excavator of Newgrange, conducted an experiment to see how long this may take.
He had four men transport a 1 ton rock 4 metres, which took them 12 hours. Professor O'Kelly estimated that building a large passage grave using these methods would have taken around 30 years.
The corballed ceiling at Newgrange with art work, which was most likely religious symbolism.
Some of the rock used was transported over quite a distance to the building site from where is was quarried. It may have been transported on rafts on rivers.
Construction would have taken a large workforce over probably a couple of generations. This required a high level of organisation within the society to house and feed the workers and to oversee the works. From this we can deduct that their society must have been quite evolved.
Triskel spirals on the walls inside the main chamber at Newgrange. The tombs in general and Newgrange in particular, contain a lot of art work.
Some of it was found on large slabs buried under ground, in a place where it would have never been visible. This led the archaeologists to believe that perhaps the art work was a form of communication or symbolism for rituals.
Click here to read the first part of this article 'Ireland history- Neolithic Ireland Part 1'
Check out Carrowmore and Carrowkeel here. They are sister sites of Newgrange, lesser known but older, and located near Sligo in Ireland.
Read about the history of neolithic monuments here. Read about Newgrange Facts and Newgrange special features.
A piece of elaborate art work adorns the ceiling of the chamber at Newgrange. On the bottom left you can see where parts of it have broken off. In the past, the art work probably covered most of the ceiling.
It is generally accepted that this prehistoric society was matriarchal, meaning devoted to the female.
Hills and valleys were special places were the Earth mother resided. In a lot of places where you see these tombs in Ireland, they are located on valleys and the tombs themselves often look like nipples with the hill being the breast.
It seems natural that early farmers would have had this close connection to the earth, seeing it as the great nurturer. In Gaelic tradition, the Earth Goddess survived as Aine, the smiling one.
The Earth Goddess was not only the giver of life though. She brought death, too, and in their traditions she received her children in death, namely in the womblike tombs built in her honour.
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