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Bend of Boyne: the megalithic mounds of Ireland

BEND OF THE BOYNE: THE MEGALITHIC BURIAL MOUNDS OF NEWGRANGE, KNOWTH AND DOWTH

The Bend of Boyne (Brú na Bóinne) is a prehistoric complex located 50 km north of Dublin and 5 km from the town of Drogheda. The area is made up of three prehistoric sites, Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth located on the north bank of the Boyne River.

The site occupies an area of 780 hectares and contains Neolithic tomb chambers. In the area there are about 40 corridor tombs, that is neolithic tombs where the burial chamber is reached through a low passage. In addition there are also megaliths, henges (prehistoric architectural structure of circular or oval shape, enclosed and delimited by a terrace, often including a moat) and other prehistoric structures.

It is the largest and most important concentration of prehistoric megalithic art in Europe. This site was included in 1993 in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites. The site was also used as a burial place in the Iron Age. Later the Normans settled there and here in 1690 the famous Battle of the Boyne was fought there.

The monuments, which date back to 3200 BC, probably had social, economic, religious and funerary functions. But the precise purpose of the immense mounds is not certain. Each of the three megalithic sites have astronomical alignments, Newgrange and Dowth are aligned with the winter solstice. While it appears that Knowth is aligned with the equinox.

WHAT TO SEE: THE NEWGRANGE MEGALITHIC BURIAL MOUND

The burial mound of Newgrange (Dún Fhearghusa), which extends for about half a hectare, constitutes one of the most famous prehistoric monuments in Europe. The tumulus, 11 meters high and with a diameter between 79 and 85 meters, externally presents a high perimeter wall of stones, partially rebuilt. Along the perimeter of the mound there are 97 stones, many of which are decorated.

The most beautiful stone in Newgrange is undoubtedly the one found at the entrance with a three-spiral motif. The mound contains a long stone passage that winds for 19 meters which leads to the sepulchral chamber, with a cruciform plan, where the three spirals of the entrance stone are replicated.

The interesting thing about this mound is due to the fact that above the entrance passage, an opening allows a ray of sunshine to enter through the opening at dawn on the day of the winter solstice (21 December) the burial chamber for 15 minutes.

WHAT TO SEE: THE KNOWTH MEGALITHIC BURIAL MOUND

The burial mound of Knowth (Cnobha), is the largest of Bend of Boyne (Brú na Bóinne). It had functions of a burial site since the Neolithic period, was then also used through the Bronze and Iron Ages, from the late Iron Age it was used as a fortified village until the early Norman period. Knowth is formed by a large mound, about 1 hectare in size, surrounded by 17 small satellite tombs. The main mound contains two long and narrow corridors that start at the opposite sides of the hill along the east-west axis. They do not join, but both lead to a different burial chamber, one of which has a cruciform plan. At the base of the mound they have been brought to light 127 stones, many of which are carved with articulated graffiti.

WHAT TO SEE: THE DOWTH MEGALITHIC BURIAL MOUND

The third burial mound is that of Dowth (Dubhadh), it is the oldest of the three main structures. It has a diameter of 90 meters and is 15 meters high, this mound is also surrounded by partially decorated stones, the interior has a cruciform chamber. This mound does not have the beautiful decorations of the other two, and today it cannot be visited internally.

USEFUL INFORMATION

The visit to the area and the two mounds of Newgrange and Knowth is allowed only with a guide, passing through the Visitor Center (Brú na Bóinne Visitor Center), which is located near the village of Donore, and also houses the museum. The Visitor Center is located south of the Boyne River along the L21, 2 km west of Donore, and 7 km from Drogheda. Signposts from Drogheda (off the N1) and Slane (off the N2). Newgrange is located just 50 km north of Dublin.

Opening hours: March-April (every day 09.30-17.30). May (every day 09.00-18.30). June-mid-September (every day 09.00-19.00). mid September – late September (every day 09.00-18.30). October (every day 09.30-17.30). November-February (every day 09.30-17.00). Newgrange is open all year round. Knowth is open from May to October. The cost of the ticket is € 10.30.

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