Sunday, December 21, 2008

Newgrange -- the scoop

Built 1,000 years before Stonehenge, Newgrange was rediscovered 300 years ago but its full significance was only identified by Prof O'Kelly so says a new book by Boyne Valley archaeologists Geraldine and Matthew Stout. "I don't see any reason why I shouldn't take on this dig. I feel that it will probably be very dull," Prof O'Kelly is quoted as telling a colleague in 1961.

In fact, it was anything but, and in 1967 he made the first observation of the mid-
winter 'solstice phenomenon', the authors of the new book noted. This was after the dismantling and replacing of the box under Prof O'Kelly between 1964 and 1967, during which slight changes turned it into a 'narrow passage'. The box, a 25cm-high opening which captures the dawning sunlight on the shortest days of the year, was only found during the rebuilding, according to the new book.

The quartz wall surrounding the passage tomb which was erected between 1967 and 1974 was also based on Prof O'Kelly's interpretation, rather than documentary evidence, the authors note. One Danish archaeologist has even questioned whether a quartz wall ever existed. However, Ms Stout said Prof O'Kelly's pioneering achievements at
Newgrange outweighed any questionable aspects of the reconstruction. He had shown conviction and courage in convincing the British establishment that Newgrange was older than Stonehenge, she said.

Source: The Irish Times (20 December 2008)


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