Two 'anomalies' deep inside the great Neolithic cairn of Newgrange at Brú na Bóinne COULD represent a collapsed chamber or even two chambers, a team of geophysicists has found.
Rún na Bóinne [Secret of the Boyne], a documentary which aired on TG4 tonight (Wednesday 20th December at 9.30pm), followed a geophysics team from Ireland and Slovakia as they carried out a micro-gravity survey and geo-radar scan of Newgrange.
In what programme producers describe as "the biggest find at Newgrange in over fifty years", the results indicate two anomalies deep inside the cairn. They are positioned side by side and bear the hallmarks of a collapsed cavity.
A screen shot from the TG4 programme showing possible chambers in Newgrange.
The possible chamber, or indeed two chambers, is located to the rear of the mound and strikingly, in alignment with the existing chamber and passage. The survey, carried out in 2022, was run by Neal Boyle, the filmmaker behind this project and director and producer of the Rún na Bóinne documentary.
Documentary producer Neal Boyle with Geraldine Stout at Knowth.
Newgrange was first excavated in the 1960s; this was when the winter solstice alignment was rediscovered and the cairn’s decorated kerbstones revealed. When the monument was dated at over 5,200 years old - older than the Egyptian pyramids and Stonehenge - the map of the ancient world was turned upside down. But Newgrange was never fully excavated; the vast majority of this ancient structure remained untouched. In the decades since, rumours persisted of a second, as yet undiscovered chamber.
Newgrange during excavation, from the air. © Leo Swan Collection.
Boyle commissioned Slovakian geophysicists Prof. Roman Pasteka and his team Dr. Pavel Zahorec, Dr. Juraj Papco, Ema Nogova and Mayo-based archaeological geophysicist Kevin Barton to survey Newgrange using non-invasive technology of microgravity and geo-radar. In the documentary, we follow as they embark on a tight, nine-day survey of the mound.
Presenter - journalist and folklorist - Seán Mac an tSíthigh attempts to narrow their search as he traces the clues that have led to the belief a second chamber may exist. Deciphering ancient manuscripts, the landscape, folklore and the art, the documentary traces the development and innovation of these ancients across Ireland from west to east, to offer a portrait not just of elaborate tomb builders but of star-gazing ancestors mapping their first intellectual steps into our very landscape. And in a dramatic conclusion, the documentary reveals the findings of evidence for a second chamber at Newgrange.
A promotional picture for the Rún na Bóinne programme.
"What this project and team has done is put some new pieces on the board in our attempt to understand this monument and the culture who built it,” said Neal Boyle.
“And it’s given future research a target to consider at Newgrange. I’m very grateful to the funders for their commitment to a project and documentary that had absolutely no guarantees. But this is an incredible result and more than we could have hoped to find.”