Passage Tombs Of Ireland
A passage tomb is a mound structure with a passage into the center, sometimes the passage has other passages leading off to the sides and through excavation it was found that there were burials within the mounds. There are many passage tombs throughout Ireland in varying states of disrepair or repair. All the passage tombs were built circa 3000 bc during the Stone age by the local population but there was quite complex engineering involved in the design and building of these structures.
Use Of The Passage Tombs : The passage tomb was named a tomb because on first excavations bones were found which indicated burials took place there and some stage over the time the construction was in use. However many historians are archaeologists are not convinced that this was the main function of the passage tombs and the title Ancient temple might be more appropriate. It is thought that they were ceremonial in function as a lot of effort went into creating an alignment with special events on the earth calendar such as the winter solstice and the equinox. These would have been special dates for the farming population at the time and it would have been important for them to mark it through celebration.
Location of Passage tombs : There are Two places in Ireland with a large concentration of Passage tombs Sligo which has 38 known tombs and Meath which has 15 known tombs. There are a number of individual Cairns dotted around the country. There are two areas of concentration in Sligo Carrowmore and Carrowkeel with a large amount of tombs on both sites, in Meath There are also two areas of concentration in Meath. Loughcrew is one location, the best preserved passage tomb at this location is Cairn T and Bru na Boine which includes Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.With out a doubt the Passage Tombs in Meath are the best preserved and the most studied in Ireland.
Newgrange : Newgrange is the best known passage tomb in Ireland and the site is controlled by the Office Of Public Works (OPW). It is a designated world heritage site and has large numbers of visitors every year both Domestic and foreign. Newgrange is over 5000 years old and was constructed in the stoneage and is 85 meters in diameter. There are 97 large stones surrounding the tomb with a decorative Kerbstone at the entrance. The passage into the tomb is 19 meters long with a large rear stone at the back of the passage. At sunrise on the morning of the winter solstice Light shines through the window box above the entrance and illuminates the passage. This feat of calculation and engineering is fantastic for the time. There is a lottery for access to the tomb on the morning of the winter solstice but there is a simulation for each guided tour.
Knowth And Dowth : These passage tombs are also part of the Bru na Boinne area and are covered under the UNESCO heritage status with Newgrange. Decorative stones at Knowth comprise a quarter of the neolithic art of Western Europe. One of the stones has carvings of the lunar cycle and many others have astrological relevance. There are two passages in this temple one 34 meters long and one is 40 meters long with a cruciform chamber at the end. It is not believed to be aligned with any celestial event and its full purpose is not understood. Dowth Is the third large tomb and is currently not open to the public. It is similar in size to Newgrange and Knowth and dates to the same period. This is the least impressive of the three tombs and is still subject to excavation. There are two passages Dowth North 14 m long and Dowth South 3.5 meters long. The South passage is aligned with the setting sun on the winter solstice, There is a carving on the Kerbstone of seven sun symbols which can also be found on the backstone of Lougcrew suggesting that this could represent a calendar of sorts.
Lougcrew : A large number of chambered cairns were built at this location they date back to 3000 bc and Cain t is very impressive. Unlike Bru na Boine it is less known and visitors can guide themselves around the site. There are stone carvings with the seven sun symbol at the rear of Cairn t. This passage tomb is aligned with sunrise on the equinox and is as impressive as Newgrange. Cain L also has a solestial alignment but this cairn is closed to the public