16 Dec 2020
The famous winter solstice illumination at Newgrange tomb in Ireland will be live streamed this year, giving a global audience the chance to see this unique phenomenon.
Every year on the winter solstice, the inner chamber of the great Neolithic passage tomb at Newgrange in County Meath in Ireland’s Ancient East is illuminated at sunrise.
The dramatic phenomenon reflects a marvel of early astronomy and construction. On 21 December a single shaft of light pierces the monument through a perfectly placed window box at the passage entrance, creating a golden path all the way to the burial chamber at its heart.
Usually a limited number of tickets are issued for the event but this year the tomb will be closed due to Covid restrictions. Instead, the solstice sunrise event, which is of huge archaeo-astronomical significance, is to be live-streamed from within the chamber.
Newgrange is part of Brú na Bóinne, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the largest and most important prehistoric megalithic site in Europe and also includes the sites of Knowth and Dowth and the largest collection of megalithic art in Western Europe. Over 5,000 years old, Newgrange predates the great pyramid of Giza in Egypt and Stonehenge in Great Britain.
A silver lining of the closing of the tomb this solstice is that it presents an opportunity to carry out research which would not have been possible in any other year. The archaeological research project will focus on the movement of the winter sunlight coming through the window box into the chamber, to determine how the beam of dawn light interplays with the chamber before and after 21 December.
Details of the live stream of the solstice sunrise event on the morning of 21 December will be revealed in the coming weeks.
In anticipation of welcoming visitors back next year, the visitor centre at Brú na Bóinne has undergone an extensive upgrade. A new immersive experience will showcase the archaeological and historical heritage of Brú na Bóinne in an evocative and absorbing way. The exhibition will include a full-scale replica of the chamber at Newgrange and a full model of one of the smaller tombs at Knowth.
The winter solstice has long been celebrated as a time of renewal and rebirth and this year’s live stream will enable people around the world to celebrate it by witnessing one of the mysteries of the ancient world.
Other Irish celebrations of this year’s winter solstice include ‘Celestial Bodies – A Homage to the Winter Solstice on the Hill of Tara’. This beautifully presented piece filmed live at Ireland’s sacred Hill of Tara includes performances from singers, a spoken word artist, contemporary dancer, ambient music designer and award-winning composer. It will go live on 21 December. To find out more about the artists and how to view the film visit www.sofftproductions.com/celestial-bodies
And for those looking forward to 2021, preparations are already underway for the next winter solstice experience, an overnight outdoor ceremony around an open fire in Brú na Bóinne.
Newgrange Megalithic Art
Knowth Tombs, Newgrange
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