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Established 16/3/2000

"Newgrange was not a tomb" says author of new book

The writer of a new book about Newgrange challenges the belief the monument was a grave

Newgrange - Temple to Life

'Newgrange: Temple to Life' by Chris O'Callaghan. Click for larger version.

A new book challenges the claim that the 5,200-year-old Stone Age monument at Newgrange was a burial tomb. Chris O'Callaghan, author of "Newgrange ­ Temple to Life" argues that the classification of Newgrange as a passage-grave "seriously misrepresents" what the ancient people who built the monument were about.

O'Callaghan said there was "no sign . . . that Newgrange had been used as a catacomb, a mortuary, necropolis, royal or otherwise, or a crematorium. Despite the assumptions, there is not the faintest evidence that Newgrange had ever been used as any sort of dedicated repository for bodies, bones, burial artefacts or ash."

Kerbstone 52 detail

Detail from kerbstone 52 at Newgrange. Click for larger view.

"At no time have reports, or even later excavations, shown that there were any signs of the purposeful storage of human bones and ash within the Newgrange monument."

Regarding the very few and mostly fragmented human bones found within the monument, the 1962-75 researchers recorded that "their minute and careful examination suggests that in total, parts of only five persons were counted
­ two unburned and three cremated."

"That there were a few human bones within the monument is not questioned. But as an overwhelming proportion of the bones discovered were unidentified fragments or animal bones, to classify the few human fragments as human
burial material is surely an unsafe assumption," Mr. O'Callaghan says in "Newgrange ­ Temple to Life".

Newgrange and the Great Circle stones

Newgrange and the Great Circle stones.

He claims that the bone fragments found in the chamber could have been taken in there by animals after Newgrange fell into disuse. "Agile carnivores would have encountered little difficulty sliding their sinuous bodies between the debris of the collapsing curtain wall and mound to find a safe refuge, carrying body parts, a few human, mostly animal, that the beasts had scavenged, an easy and natural likelihood."

He said their powerful jaws would have "chomped and fragmented" the bones to the state in which they were discovered 4,000 years later. "But as far as the passage grave classification is concerned, there is no hint that the pieces of fragmented bone, discovered mixed with the sand and grit on the floor of the monument, can be even remotely linked to sacrifice or burial activities," he claimed.

Chris O'Callaghan was born in Salisbury, Rhodesia. At the beginning of 2000, after many years in marketing, he and his wife, Barbara Barrett, left southern Africa to settle in the peaceful Irish countryside. Here the length and richness of Irish history soon persuaded him to turn from researching the O'Callaghan family tree, to writing.

You can purchase this book at


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