14 hours ago
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
After Knowth, Newgrange itself. The approach from the bus stop is impressive. Click here to read about the site - I'm going to stick with what isn't covered in the link - and check out the other links at the end of the page too. In the tradition of my travel photos, the site appears almost deserted... actually, there were at least two main tour groups there at the time, so more than 50 people on the site. It just looks empty. We were timed for the entrance to the passage and split into two groups (about 18 in each I think), which added to the sense of occasion.
The slate walls in the image above are modern, added to enable access to the passage more easily for visitors and made from machine cut slate, so future generations will easily identify them as later additions. The stone at the threshold echoes the famous triple spiral inside the tomb while the 'lightbox' which illuminates the passage at dawn from the 19th to the 23rd December each year is the window like aperture above the passage entrance.
No photography is allowed inside, but you can get a good impression of how it looks from the photos on the Newgrange site. I stood next to the alcove on the right hand side - there's an illustration of it here, by Sally McKenna. I made a quick sketch of some of the pattern details, which are probably easier to see in her artwork than in photos. The roof structure, with overlapping slabs (click photo below to go to http://www.mesacc.edu/~tomshoemaker/celtic/slides.html and go down the right hand menu for 'mounds/chambers'), immediately suggested a irregular Log Cabin block. Although the guide maintained that the roof hadn't leaked, we could see leaching on the stones. 'Interior 2' on the same website shows the narrowness of the passage, which wasn't as bad as I expected. It was also, curiously, no more claustrophobic than being in a room with quite a few people.
A few more interior image links -
Lit with candles
Information about Michael J. O'Kelly, who excavated Newgrange - scroll to bottom of page for an excellent image (plus read all about the archaeology)
"It therefore seems that the sun has shone into the chamber ever since the day of its construction and will probably continue to do so for ever." Dr Jon Patrick
Kerbstone designs -
The carvings are in shallow relief -
We were discussing how the original designs were drawn out, and it made me go back to a discussion at one of the quilting sessions over the weekend - how quilters used the width of a finger or thumb as a measure for parallel lines. Seems to fit here too. The patterns have a human scale - the width of a thumb, the width of a finger, a hand span etc. I think we should mark up a wholecloth this way.
EDIT - Marks made by the width of the fingers in prehistoric art are covered in this BBC article from 30/9/11. A very interesting link - please read.
While waiting for the bus, we 'drew' a double spiral in the gravel, simply working in two lines from the outside of a rough circle.
As we left the site, the resident moggy mouse patrol appeared at the kiosk. He is clearly the current 'owner' of Newgrange and a bit of a sun worshipper himself.
It was a shame the bookshop at the visitor centre was closed for stocktaking, although it looks like there's plenty of books on the website (with Amazon links) - will have a look at these later. 'Newgrange Speaks for Itself' is already on my wishlist.
Looking back from the visitor centre path - Newgrange is on the central horizon - an amazing day.