Sunlight enters the passage at Newgrange, lighting up Neolithic rock art on the wall. Image: Sean Doran

A shaft of light will enter the 5,000 year old tomb at sunrise and illuminate it spectacularly. Don’t miss your chance to see it… Just make sure you pray for clear skies!

Newgrange (Sí an Ḃrú) in Ireland’s County Meath is a prehistoric monument of gigantic proportions. In fact, it’s probably one of the most famous megalithic monuments in Europe and now, we can all witness the spectacle it was designed to deliver.

Built around 5,000 years ago,  it contains an impressive network of stone passageways and chambers. Just above the entrance, a roof-box is perfectly set to capture the rising sun during the winter solstice; at sunrise from December 21st-23rd its position allows a narrow beam of light to enter.

As the sunlight enters and reaches the floor, it gradually extends towards the rear of the passage. As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. After 17 minutes the sunbeam leaves the chamber and retreats back down the passage.

When Newgrange was built over 5000 years ago, the winter solstice sunbeam would have made it all the way to the back, but due to changes in the tilt of the Earth’s axis, it now stops 2m short.

Entrance to Newgrange. Photo via wikimedia commons

If skies are clear, we’ll all be able to witness this ancient phenomenon online. The live stream is taking place on Wednesday and Thursday from 8.30am, and you can see it on their website. We’ll be watching… see you there!

H/T Irish Times

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Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

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