Newgrange, Ireland ~ This passage tomb is one of the oldest man-made constructions on earth, predating Egypt’s ancient pyramids by some 700 years and fabled Stonehenge by 1,000.
During the Winter Solstice, the sun’s rays penetrate through a unique roof box, crawl slowly up the tight 62-foot long pathway, and light up the central burial chamber. This makes Newgrange the oldest solar observatory in the world.
Built around 3200 BCE, the heart-shaped hill occupies more than an acre and is surrounded by 97 massive curbstones, some richly decorated with geometric carvings. The tomb is 36 feet high with a diameter of 280 feet. Construction, done without benefit of the wheel or metal tools, took more than 20 years. Workers dragged 200,000 tons of loose stones to the mound, digging them from the earth by hand and hauling them 30 miles to the hilltop.
The inner chamber has three recesses which form a cross. The intricate corbeled ceiling reaches a height of 20 feet, although the narrow entry passage is much lower. Overlapping stones form a conical dome, topped by a single capstone. This ceiling has been intact more than 5,000 years and still keeps the inner chambers dry.
Newgrange is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.