Degrees and courses for international students
You are viewing information for England.  Change country or region.

The Open University explores the Winter Solstice at Newgrange: an interactive map

18 December 2015

Irish history is a rich subject of study, from ancient Celtic culture to contemporary life. The Open University’s BA in History includes a module entitled 'The Arts Past & Present: Ireland'.

Part of the course’s curriculum focuses on ancient Irish architecture, which includes the remarkable UNESCO World Heritage site of Newgrange.

It was during the Neolithic period that Ireland’s earliest inhabitants built Newgrange. The ancient burial tomb in County Meath predates both Stonehenge and the Pyramids. An exceptional feat of engineering, the Neolithic structure was built using advanced astronomical insight: each year on the Winter Solstice (21st December), light shines through a roof-box, flooding its inner chamber with light.

It was during the excavation of 1967 - detailed in this Open University video – that archaeologist Professor Michael O’Kelly made this startling discovery.

Professor Anne Laurence of The Open University comments: "What tourists see and learn about the site is the result of O’Kelly’s work. He also discovered that the tomb was much older than had previously been thought."

Every year since, crowds gather at Newgrange on the Winter Solstice to witness the illumination of the chamber at dawn, with a lottery held to determine the select few who can enter.

You can now enjoy this sacred site from the comfort of your own home, courtesy of our interactive Newgrange image. Hover over the various elements plotted on the image below for information and imagery about the site.

Learn more about Irish history with this OpenLearn timeline.

Learn more about The Open University’s Bachelor degrees