Newgrange Ireland


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New Discovery made at Newgrange - The Irish Times - April 1982

Archaeologists with the Office of Public Works have made what they believe to be a significant discovery at Newgrange, Co. Meath. The unearthing of a "beaker house" alongside a crematorium and burial ground was made about six weeks ago as workers moved in to prepare the site for a new tourist office in the shadow of the world-famous passage grave.

Barely 100 yards from the passage grave, which fronts onto the public car park, workers under the supervision of archaeologist David Sweetman discovered a series of holes and shafts which date back to 2,000BC.

Archaeologists have never before found crematoria and shaft burials side-by-side. Commenting on the discovery Mr. Sweetman said: "Up until now we did not know that Bronze Age man cremated the bodies right beside where they buried them."

In all a total of 13 shaft burials and an equal number of crematoria have been unearthed. While crematoria and shafts are similar, the former were somewhat larger and were used to burn the bodies. The large pits were lined with clay and the bodies ceremonially burned. The remains were then removed and laid to rest in the shafts alongside.

It is believed that each crematorium and burial shaft was used only once. In a corner of the site workers discovered traces of a Bronze Age hose and they also unearthed some Beaker pottery. Sweetman is puzzled by the fact that the house is beside the burial ground, which dates from the same period.

The beaker house was constructed of wattles and clay and was used for flint napping ­ a process of removing nodules of flint. Only one other beaker house has been discovered in the country, at Monknewtown, not far from Newgrange. That discovery was also made by Mr Sweetman some years ago.

A stone, similar to those which ring the passage grave, was also unearthed at Newgrange recently. Along with the stone Mr. Sweetman discovered traces of poles in a number of the pits which indicates that the area was the scene of pagan rituals. "We might be in the middle of a stone circle somewhat like Woodhenge or Stonehenge," Mr Sweetman suggested.

Exhaustive excavations continued during the week, but it seems likely that when the work is completed the foundations for the new tourist office will be laid over the burial ground. It will be approximately another month before the final go-ahead for the work will be given. Asked why another location could not be found for the office in view of the significance of the site, Mr. Sweetman said that regardless of where one dug at Newgrange the possibility was that something would be unearthed.


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