The 5000 year old monument which now stands as a strong symbol for Ireland and is also a popular tourist site for the country is Newgrange. It is a Neolithic structure which is known to be older than the English Stonehenge and the Egyptian Pyramid of Giza. Ireland has two more similar mound structures which belong to the same age, namely Knowth and Dowth. All of them have been tagged as UNESCO Heritage Sites.
The mound of Newgrange is known to be located at a distance of one kilometre on the northern side of the River Boyne. It is thought to be a monument made by some farming community of the Neolithic age who gave it a kidney like shape which is based on about 97 kerbstones which are adorned with monolithic art. The initial inspection of Newgrange concluded that it was a passage tomb however; later research increased its significance to that of being a monument of religious importance which had a spiritual and astrological importance alongside being a resting place for the important dignitaries of the clan which built it.
Such is the importance of the Newgrange that it finds a place for itself in most of the mythical beliefs and folklores of Ireland. The structure of Newgrange has a mound which is made up of alternate layers of stone and earth. The exposed layer of the mound is covered with grass. The height of the mound is 76 metres and the total area covered by Newgrange is about 1.1 acre. Thereafter, there is a 19 kilometre long passage which leads to three small chambers and one big cross shaped chamber which has a corbel roof. Though, the small chambers have basin stones in them but, it is not clear if these stones served as burial stones.
Around the mount of Newgrange there are stones which stand and are known to belong to the Bronze Age which came long after the monument was abandoned to be a burial site. The kerbstones of Newgrange depict various forms of Neolithic abstract art and style. It is also said that soon after constructing Newgrange, the Neolithic men abandoned it to reach a stage of collapse in some years.
The remains of the Newgrange were then first excavated in the later 17th and 18th centuries by the antiquarians who did an extensive research in to the monument. Then, in the year 1882, the Newgrange went under the protection of the Ancient Monument Protection Act of the British and Irish Government and the conservation process of the monuments started then. It was following then that the mainstream archaeological excavations started near the sites of Newgrange. It was a part of this movement that quartz stones were embedded near the entry of the mound.
In the current times, the visitor tours of Newgrange start from the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre of Donore from where the tourists travel in groups. However, to visit Newgrange during Winter Solstice, you need to participate in a lottery which chooses only 100 people in a year.