Grave Problems at Newgrange

A shocking discovery of human ashes at the ancient Newgrange passage tomb in County Meath has horrified staff at the National monument.  Acting on an anonymous tip, archaeologists resurveyed the Stone Age tomb and found that the level of the floor is now more than an inch higher than it was when the ancient monument was restored in the early 1960s. DNA testing of the soil has revealed that the earth floor contains more than 30% recent human ash.

People have visited this ancient monument in their hundreds of thousands every year and it is estimated that the ashes more than a thousand people have been scattered on the passage floor over the years. Local priest Fr Ben Dover has condemned the practice saying: “This work of pagans and atheists and no decent Christian Irish person would be involved in such a heathen sacrilege.”

Recently, archaeologists and astronomers have been re-examining the 5,200 year old chamber in an effort to solve its many mysteries. Built with great astronomical precision before Stonehenge and the Great Pyramids of Giza, the sun’s rays shine on the exact centre of a carved round stone at the back of this 19 metre long Neolithic chamber for a brief few moments shortly after dawn just once every year at the Winter Solstice on the 21st of December.

It is not the first time that the site has been vandalised. The Vikings plundered it, generations of farmers have removed stones to build walls and graffiti spanning the centuries can still be seen on the ancient stones. Now there is a new kind of “vandal” preying on the historic site in the belief that the tomb will provide a resting place close to the spirit of ancient ancestors.


Locally it is thought that this is the undertaking of Druids, who have long regarded Newgrange as their own sacred shrine. Investigators believe they adopted a trick from the film, “The Great Escape” of carrying the ashes of their departed loved ones in pouches down their trouser legs and then releasing them on the floor of the chamber using drawstrings hidden in the pockets.

For many years nobody realised the site has a special connection with astronomy. During excavation works in the sixties it was accidentally discovered that the dawn light of the winter solstice sun penetrates the innermost recesses of the passage. This discovery connects it with places like Stonehenge, which it pre-dates by nearly a thousand years.

Offerings to our ancient ancestors  have shown a big increase with the resurgence of spiritualism in Western society. Many people, disillusioned with the restrictions of modern Christianity and other established religions are searching for a more simple spiritualism and Paganism provides that, along with its perceived link to our forbearers.

Only a major excavation can now restore the passage. Catholic Church authorities have expressed concern that the human remains are being desecrated daily by trampling tourists and have said in a statement that the only ecclesiastically acceptable solution is to close up the Newgrange monument completely and preserve it as consecrated ground.

Last month a public meeting of interested parties held in nearby village of Slane failed to resolve the problem. There are now fears in the local tourism sector that the whole area will have to be sealed off  to conduct forensic tests for clues in this modern ancient mystery.  A local councillor Jack Goff said that the consequences of even a temporary closure of Newgrange would be disastrous for the area which depends heavily on tourism. “This will have grave consequences for the whole area,” he said. “I will do everything in my power to keep the passage open. It will close over my dead body”.


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