For the first time in decades, humans were absent from the chamber of Newgrange for the annual winter solstice sunrise illumination of the famous monument.
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the chamber has been off bounds to visitors since March 2020 when the pandemic arrived in Ireland. However, the Office of Public Works and the National Monuments Service teamed up to bring the marvellous event to a worldwide audience with a special internet livestream.
The first of three scheduled livestreams from the 5,200-year-old megalithic monument in the Boyne Valley was a tremendous success, helped enormously by compliant weather. A beautiful golden sunrise heralded a rare opportunity for large audiences to see the phenomenon.
Usually, 20 lottery winners are allowed to enter the chamber to see the sunrise. But this year, because of coronavirus, OPW/NMS organised a livestream, which was a wonderful idea because it allowed a much greater audience to witness the event in safety.
Shortly after the golden orb of the sun began to appear above the hill of Redmountain opposite the great cairn, the sunlight began to stream into the chamber. Clare Tuffy, OPW manager of the monument, and archaeoastronomer Frank Prendergast provided a commentary for the event.
There was a terrific reaction to the livestream online, with many commenting about how it had given them a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to view the phenomenon, which is the result of human ingenuity from the Neolithic, before metallurgy had come to Ireland.
We were able to witness the initial piercing of the chamber by light, but also the slow retreat afterwards as the sun slowly rose in the sky and the light beam narrowed before exiting the chamber again.
If you missed the livestream, you can catch up by watching a video of the entire event on YouTube on the Office of Public Works channel:
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