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Newgrange is probably the oldest man made structure in western Europe, it predates the Egyptian pyramids by five hundred years. The monument consists of a circular cairn some 91.5 Metres (300 ft) in diameter, and 12 Meters (36 ft high) with an estimated mass of 200,000 tons. Built in the stone age when the only tools available to man were flint.
The bulk of the stone used is thought to have been quarried some twenty miles distant, at Clougherhead in County Louth. and transported to the site by some type of barge, coming down the coast and up the river Boyne. When the site was first scientifically excavated, a large quantity of white stone was found surrounding the entrance, these it was discovered came from County Wicklow, much debate ensued as to whether they were from a ceremonial path or perhaps the front wall was lined with them. It was decided the latter was the case.
The tomb is surrounded by ninety-seven curbstones, just in front of the entrance is an ornately carved stone (picture below) estimated to weigh about ten tons. It is not known what these carvings represent, similar designs are evident in other tombs such as The Hill of the Witches.
Of the builders, and their reasons for expending such vast resources of effort and time, little is known, the use to which it was put is mere speculation. Certainly it was precisely aligned astrologically, on the day of the winter solstice, the rising sun pierces to the full length of the chamber, and illuminates the now broken granite urn which, possibly once contained the cremated bones of hallowed tribal members, druids or priests.
Some sources report that the Vikings plundered Newgrange in 863.
About a mile from Newgrange to the north east is the passage tomb of Dowth, and Knowth to the north west. With two burial chambers set back to back and surrounded by 17 satellite graves. Knowth is more complex than Newgrange. Dowth is larger but is not open to the public.