At Newgrange a long passage leads to a burial chamber where stone basins receive the bones of the dead.
A visit to Newgrange the best known of Ireland's prehistoric monuments from the series 'From Ireland's Past'.
The cairn, thirty six feet high, covers an acre of ground. The white quartz stone lends distinction to the monument making it conspicuous in the landscape.
Thousands of tonnes of material are piled up to make the mound. Around the mound are free standing stones marking off the sacred area for ritual. Some of these stones are decorated with motifs, similar to the decorations on stones in the burial chamber. However, the religious significance of these decorations is not known.
The Newgrange tomb is entered by a sixty two foot long passage leading into a burial chamber where there are stone basins to receive the cremated bones of the dead. The vault in the central area rises twenty feet, giving the air of a prehistoric cathedral. The Neolithic builders constructed a roof box over the entrance to the passage.
Professor Michael J O'Kelly who excavated the Newgrange site discovered that during the winter solstice the rising sun shines for a brief period through the roof box.
The shaft of light penetrates right into the back burial chamber.
It is clear that the Neolithic builders of the Newgrange tomb studied the movements of the sun. However, what part it played in their religious ritual we do not know.
'From Ireland's Past - Graves and Gods' was broadcast on 2 March 1979. The reporter is Máire De Paor.
'From Ireland's Past' was a four part series produced for Telefís Scoile by Aindreas Ó Gallchoir.
The music for the series is composed and conducted by Seoirse Bodley and played by the Testore Quartet and the Georgian Brass.