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Join an online tour about the winter solstice at Newgrange this year

Celebrate the rising sun of the winter solstice over Newgrange this year with a new online tour by the NMI - Archaeology.

The tour will look at three key exhibitions at the Museum to examine how ancient monuments and archaeological objects are linked to celestial events.

Viewers will learn how passage tombs, such as Newgrange, are aligned to the winter solstice; discover artefacts on display in the Museum that have been found in Ireland’s tombs; and see objects linked to solar symbols, such as gold lunulae and sun discs dating to the Bronze Age.

The link for this tour will be published online from 4pm on Monday, 21 December, and Museum educator Patricia Ryan will be available after the tour to answer any questions that are posted in the comment section on YouTube during this time. Subscribe to the National Museum of Ireland on Youtube  to get updates when new tours and talks are streamed or published.

The magic of the winter solstice at Newgrange has fascinated and inspired people all over the globe for many years. On 21 December, 1967, Professor M.J. O'Kelly of University College Cork and his team became the first to observe and experience the illumination of the passage tomb since prehistoric times.

Newgrange is one of 40 passage tombs in Brú na Bóinne (meaning the bend of the Boyne River) in County Meath. Each year, the illumination phenomenon occurs for two or three days centring on the 21st of December where light from the rising sun travels down a passage way and hits a triple spiral motif on the back kerb of the chamber.

Some theories suggest the Neolithic builders of the tomb believed this opened a vortex to let the dead complete their journey from this world to ‘the other world’ (*Jones, 2007, 157).

Each year, Newgrange operates a lottery to allow a small number of people enter the chamber and see the illumination firsthand. That is not possible in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions, however, the Office of Public Works will be live streaming the winter solstice at Newgrange around the world. Find further information on the live stream here.

Some related exhibitions at the National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology include Ór - Ireland's Gold and Prehistoric Ireland.

*Jones, C. (2007) Temples of Stone: exploring the megalithic tombs of Ireland. The Collins Press: Cork.

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