On Friday 4 March, 21 Champlain students in the Early Ireland course ventured forth on a day-long field trip to Newgrange at the Bru na Boinne and the Hill of Tara. Newgrange is one of the most famous Neolithic (late stone age) sites in Europe. It is a large passage tomb with a a cruciform shaped terminus and a ‘roof box’ which allows the rising sun on the winter solstice to shine directly down the passage to illuminate the burial chambers. The students were all able to go inside the tomb to watch the re-created solstice sunrise and later were able to walk around the outside of the tomb, observe the rock art, and see the stone circle which later Bronze Age people erected around the tomb.
The students really enjoyed the visit and remarked that it was ‘unbelievable’, ‘really amazing to watch the sunrise from inside’, and that they ‘couldn’t believe they had just touched a stone that someone had carved over 5000 years ago’.
After our Newgrange visit we drove over to the Hill of Tara, about 25 minutes from the Bru na Boinne Centre in County Meath. The Hill of Tara is one of the most important sites in Irish history and has been a focus of human activity since the Neolithic era. It is where the High Kings of Ireland would have ruled from. At Tara students were able to walk across the entire 2.5 kilometer site from the Sloping Trenches (two ring barrows), up the Banqueting Hall (a cursus, or processional walkway), and up into the Rath na Ri (the fort of the ings) where the crowning stone (Lia Fail) and the Mound of the Hostages, Forradh, and Teach Cormaic are located. It was a beautiful spring day and everyone had a grand time!