Three stones from the Great Circle at Newgrange. These massive rocks are 2.5 meters high and weigh several tons. The circle was erected some time after the mound of Newgrange was finished.

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Article by Tom Ray
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The Great Circle at Newgrange

The mound of Newgrange is surrounded by a huge stone circle, one of the biggest in Ireland with a diameter of 104 meters. There are 12 standing stones remaining today, the same number as when the mound was first recorded in 1699. There is an average of 9 meters between the surviving stones, which means that if the circle were ever complete it would have contained up to 36 stones.


Due to the composition of the layers uncovered during the excavations we know that the circle was built after the main mound was completed but before the cairn collapsed. Several of the standing stones were snapped at the base, but had no cairn-slip under them.

Standing stone 9 of the Great Circle, a strange sandstone conglomotite with quartz pebbles, on the west side of Newgrange.

Interestingly, the Great Circle is the same diameter as the two inner circles at Avebury in England. Of the 12 remaining stones the four largest and most imposing are on the south east side before the entrance. These stones are 2.5 to 3 meters tall and weigh many tons. Perhaps they were erected at the same time or even by the same crew as the Avebury circles.

Standing stone -10 of the Great Circle at Newgrange. This small rectangular enclosure was outside the main excavation area and shows the amount of cairn-slip still around the base of the north side of the mound.

The stone above, -10 had fallen when the mound collapsed and was lying flat until it was restored by O'Kelly in 1973. Macalistar and Praeger examined this stone and had a pit dug under it to view the lower surface in June 1928. The pit was covered with planks and left that way until O'Riordain looked at it in 1954. He noted that there was no cairn slip beneath the stone and uncovered the socket and packing stones 7 meters from the kerbstones.

A section of one of the two inner circles at Avebury in England which both have the same diameter, 104 meters, as the Great Circle at Newgrange. Is there a connection?