The stone façade surrounding the 5,000-year-old Newgrange monument in County Meath, Ireland is impressive. However, I learned Newgrange’s façade is not what it appears to be.
I liked the way the patterns in the wall changed from dark-colored stones to dark dotted with white…
To light dotted with dark stones.
The white stones over the entryway make it stand out.
The wall includes rough white quartz, rounded gray granodiorite, coarse-grained gabbro, and banded siltstone.
Upon doing further research, I learned “façade” has a double meaning at this site.
The rediscovery of Newgrange
In 1699, a local landowner, Charles Campbell, rediscovered this passage tomb. He had instructed laborers to collect stone from the site, and they inadvertently found the entrance to the tomb.
Several prominent antiquarians visited the site. They debated who constructed the monument and what purpose it served. Theories on who made Newgrange included invading Vikings in early medieval times, ancient Egyptians, ancient Indians, or the Phoenicians.
In the meantime, the site experienced degradation caused by the passage of time and vandalism. In 1882, Newgrange and sites nearby gained protection under the Ancient Monuments Protection Act. The Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth passage tombs, located in an area known as Brú na Bóinne, received recognition as a World Heritage Site in 1993.
Here is Newgrange’s entrance in the late 1800s, before restoration. Numerous archaeologists participated in conserving the site.
A façade begins
From 1962 to 1975, archaeologist Michael J. O’Kelly oversaw excavation, restoration, and reconstruction. Once excavation began, a large quantity of small stones were found. O’Kelly concluded they must have been part of a wall. Under his guidance, his crew made a steel-reinforced concrete retention wall to hold the stones in place.
Many in the archaeological community disagreed with this controversial decision. In fact, P.R. Giot said it looked like “cream cheese cake with dried currants distributed about.”
Newgrange’s façade is “the face of a building,” as defined by the dictionary. However, you could say it’s “a false, superficial, or artificial appearance or effect,” another definition of the word.
When reconstruction at the nearby Knowth monument began in 1962, archaeologist George Eogan took a fresh approach. He believed the stones formed a welcoming “apron” on the ground near the entrance.
The photo below shows the stones near the entrance to Knowth. Both sites are amazing, whether you prefer the cream cheese cake look or not. 😉