How Did They Do That Without Fred And Barney?
NO MATTER HOW MUCH I TRY I have trouble relating to things that are 5000 years old. There aren’t a lot of those things around, at least not in my neighborhood. I’m as close as it comes. It was just the other day that my ability to relate to things older than Sophia Loren was put to the test.
One of those places that everyone should visit if you are coming to Ireland is Newgrange. It is a U.N. World Heritage Site and is only about an hour north of Dublin. Once there you will be greeted by something to make your jaw drop.
Newgrange is site that has survived and been restored from the New Stone Age, five thousand years in the Irish past. It is what is called a “Passage Tomb,” but it is more than that. It was, and is, a Solar Observatory. And what is special is that you can go into the center of the structure and see what the Neolithic folks saw all those years ago.
Accompanied by an experienced guide you and about a dozen others shinny your way with your head low into the passageway of the tomb. This was my third time to Newgrange and I whack my head at least once each time. At 5’8″ I would be the center on the “Fighting Tomb Builders” Stone Age Basketball Team. Once in the center of the tomb you learn how the entire structure is aligned so that at dawn at the Winter Solstice the sun’s rays come through that passage and light up the interior.
Why? Why did they drag hundreds of tons of stone to build this enormous structure? Was it religious, or scientific, or, as I think, it was an engineering school, teaching the next generation how to build things. They had no written language. There are no hieroglyphics anywhere. It was all Show and Tell unless they had a Stone Age version of YouTube.
Like I said, this was my third visit to this stunning site and each time I leave with a sense of awe and a lump on my head. Considering that the life expectancy back then was in the 35 year range and that it took, at least, several generations to put it all together, those builders were not knuckle dragging cave dwellers.
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We are deep into the second week of our five week trip. This week we are staying in the tiny town (1600 people) of Belturbet in County Cavan. The town is just a few Kilometers from the border with Northern Ireland. We are staying in a museum. Our abode is the Station Master’s House that is part of a Railway Museum. Belturbet is trying to lure tourists to their town and have the 1885 vintage house available to rent. Next week we will be moving on and up to County Donegal and the oceanside village of Glencomcille.