Reasons to travel usually boil down to wanting to see this, a need to experience that. Many travelers want to meet people different from what they know, find meaning in foreign languages, sample tastes palettes have never tickled or simply to get away, to feel displaced. Until I set foot on the Brú Na Bóinne site in Ireland, I didn’t realize I had cast aside and neglected one major reason we should all travel.
Located in County Meath, Brú Na Bóinne is composed of three main prehistoric sites, Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. On my visit, only Newgrange was open for viewing. I usually resist organized tours, sites where they won’t just let me walk up and see it. To see Newgrange you have to get a spot on a shuttle bus and have a tour guide hold your hand while taking you through the tomb.
Predating the Pyramids of Egypt and Stonehenge, the three sites are tombs. Newgrange in particular was thought to house the remains of those at the top of the social ladder. Despite such a reason, my guide hints this structure could have been a gathering spot, a house of worship of sorts. As the shuttle bus rounds the narrow road up to Newgrange, I am immediately blown away. The white, round stonewalls don’t look like something of this earth, but another. Topping them off is a grassy dome. The tomb measures 80 meters in diameter and reaches up to 13 meters high.
Constructed around 3200 B.C., no one really knows the original purpose of this site. Regardless of its meaning, Newgrange is considered one of the finest Stone Age passage tombs in Ireland. You are not allowed to take photographs inside the tomb, something my guide says management has mandated. You can see why. The inside of the tomb is somewhat of a let down. You see this large structure outside and think the interior must be enormous, but only a few clusters of people can fit within at a time.
All over the interior and exterior of Newgrange are swirls and designs. The three interwoven swirls are yet again a mystery. Are they a trinity of beliefs or just an early trend in art? The construction of Newgrange suggests a spiritual purpose to these designs. At the winter solstice, the tomb lights up with a persistent sunbeam at dawn. Because of this, some believe Newgrange served as a calendar, a way of measuring time.
I take a lap around this prehistoric mystery as I ponder the impossibility of it all. Stones used to build this mound hail from County Wicklow, a long way for early humans to travel with boulders weighing a few tons. How they got them here is also a bit of a mystery. However everything is a mystery here. The construction alone shows a highly organized and settled society, far ahead of their time and technology.
Newgrange is one reason to travel, for motivation. This site is a showpiece of what prehistoric humans, with very little, could achieve. You can never be deterred from dreaming when you see that works so impossible are actually possible. We can complain today of our lack of resources to go after what we want, but seeing these mysteries of construction, the Stonehenges and Pyramids of the world, we should have no complaints or excuses for not following passions. As I see Newgrange fade in my realm of vision out of that shuttle bus window, I can hear the prehistoric residents laughing in their tombs. You don’t know what will be until you try.
Does traveling to sites that defied the impossible motivate you in your life to achieve?