Looking across the chamber at Newgrange from the end recess. On the left is the inner triple spiral. From here to the Entrance stone 20 meters away, the ground level drops by 2 meters. The chamber can hold about 25 people. The basin in this end recess is said to have been smashed by a Sligo man who dreamed that there was gold buried under it, and made a journey to Newgrange to investigate with his slegehammer around 1795. Picture copyright OPW.
Passage at Newgrange
The passage begins just behind the Entrance stone. Originally, to enter the chamber you had to climb over the stone; the modern side entrances with steps were added during restoration. The stone flag to the right of the entrance was used to seal the entrance; it was found lying with it's top on the Entrance stone, where it would have been levered up and down into position when the mound was being opened or closed. The passage is 20 meters long, and rises over 2 meters along it's course, as it is built on the slope of the hill. Therefore, an observer lying on the floor of the chamber can look out through the roofbox.
The roofbox is the special aperture constructed over the entrance, which allows the suns rays to enter and illuminate the inner chamber at sunrise on the winter solstice. A quartz block was found in situ in the roofbox, and appears to have been one of a pair used to close the aperture when not in use. A huge flag, 3 meters long covers the first three passage stones. Another even larger flag, over 4 meters long, roofs the next section of the passage.
Right: engravings on the pillar that marks the entrance to the chamber.
There are 21 passage stones or orthoststs lining the passageway, and several of these were straightend by O'Kelly, as they had begun to sag inwards. The passage has two gentle curves along its length, and is S-shaped; this is thought to be a deliberate feature used by the builders to shape and focus the beam of light at the winter solstice. As mentioned, the floor slopes gently upwards, following the contour of the hill.
The roof of the passage is covered with flags, and during the excavation these were found to be carved with grooves on their upper edges, the purpose of which is to carry off rainwater. The interior of Newgrange has been kept dry for over 5,000 years, a testament to the skill of the builders. The seams in the passage roof and corbelling were caulked with a mixture of sand and burnt clay to help with the drylining. As the passage approaches the chamber, the roofing corbels rise like a flight of steps, and rises to meet the corbelling of the chamber roof.
Elevation of the passage at Newgrange, by Michael O'Kelly.
There is art on many of the passage stones, though it is not always easy to see when visiting, as the passage is narrow, and you only get a few moments to look while a tour is on. Several of the designs have been worn smooth by the amount of visitors who have squeezed through here since the mound was opened. Many of the carvings are of diamonds/lozanges, triangles, wavy 'light lines' and there are a beautiful set of spirals on the left at a tight space two thirds of the way in, which may constitute Newgrange's third triple spiral. Some of the roofing flags are also engraved, including a fine example at the back of the top of the roofbox.
The point where the passage and chamber meet.