We saw a poster in a shop window in Drogheda for an evening tour on the 4th of July. So we signed up...but it wasn't what we expected. It turned out that there were about 10 people on a large bus and they all new each other and the tour guide Sean Collins, who turned out to be a local historian who regularly gives tours. (He was also a former City Councillor and Mayor...an Irish Gordon Price?
As we passed a large field, he pointed out to a mound in the distance and said it may well be the oldest remaining man-made structure in the world. That certainly caught my interest. The structure was 'Newgrange'. (I love the irony that a very old structure should be called new anything!) After checking the oldest man-made structures in the world on Wikipedia, I question whether this really is the oldest surviving man-made structure..there seem to be some in France and Malta; but it might be one of the top five...and is certainly older than Stonehenge and the pyramids...
The next day we went back to visit this mystical and ancient structure. Newgrange is one of the oldest passage graves in Europe and still in remarkable condition. You can go inside the tomb. It is an impressive Neolithic (+- 3500 BC) megalithic building on a natural hill in the bend of the river Boyne.
It is only approachable via the visitor’s centre (Brú na Boinne), from where you are taken to the monument by small buses. At the visitor centre is a creative exhibition explaining Newgrange’s history with various interpretations as to its function in prehistoric society and how it might have been constructed.
There are many fascinating aspects to Newgrange...how were the stones transported to the site? How long did it take to construct? But for me, the most fascinating aspect is how it was designed and constructed so that the interior is lit by the sun for only a few minutes each year...yes that's right...each year! The entry is perfectly aligned so that on the winter solstice the sun will shine up the low, narrow, entry way into the central space, where some stone carvings become visible.
What you see today has been somewhat reconstructed, based on what was found on the site after it was discovered and unearthed. But the exterior design is fascinating with a mixture of white (quartz) and dark (basalt) stones arranged in very deliberate and unusual patterns.
Newgrange does not compare with the Pyramids, Ankor Wat or Machu Pichu. However, in its own way it is very remarkable, especially when you think about its extraordinary siting and the effort it must have taken to build so that responds perfectly to the sun and the winter equinox.
While it may not be the oldest remaining structure in the world, it may well be the oldest remaining 'green roof' in the world! No doubt Cornelia Oberlander has seen it!