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Newgrange: Part 1

The Triple Spiral

I will begin this blog post with a disclaimer: I am about to go nerdy....very nerdy. If you are not thwarted by this and maybe even a bit intrigued, please by all means read on – you have been warned. ;)

The triple spiral symbol used in Unlocked has been seen in prehistoric archaeology all over the European continent for thousands of years. Although the spiral motif’s oldest known appearance is on the island of Malta at the Tarxian temple (which dates to 3,600 BCE) its next major appearance occurs at the megalithic passage tomb at Newgrange (constructed 3,200 BCE) in County Meath, Ireland. Many have automatically attributed Newgrange to Celtic influence; however the structure is much older than that. Not only does Newgrange predate the establishment of Celtic civilization in Ireland by 2,500 years, it also predates both Stonehenge and the Pyramids at Giza!

Newgrange is one of 3 major burial mounds and passage tombs near the Boyne River that are collectively called Brú na Bóinne, which means “mansion on the Boine.” The other two are called Knowth and Dowth. Brú na Bóinne is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, protected because it is "Europe's largest and most important concentration of prehistoric megalithic art," according to the UNESCO website.

This artwork is evident on many stones around and inside Newgrange. The gateway to the Newgrange burial mound is guarded by a stone covered in spiral motif with a defined triple spiral carved into the left of the gate stone. You can see the triple spiral really clearly in this picture, which we took on our last visit there.


A triple spiral is found inside the passage tomb as well. This is the only example of a triple spiral in a passage tomb anywhere in Europe.

Though the original ancient meaning of the triple spiral is not known, theories and interpretations abound. Some of the more accepted theories state that the spirals represent time and its cyclical pattern throughout the seasons of the year. Another interpretation is that the triple spiral is a visual interpretation of the circular nature of the life cycle. Still others contend that it is actually a map of the area surrounding Newgrange and each of the spirals represents one of the passage tombs and the Boyne River that flows around them. Language and communication is another theory of interpretation, because the spiral motif (though not the triple spiral) is depicted at other early Stone Age sites as well.

Whatever the true meaning, what cannot be argued is that the triple spiral interpretation of the spiral motif is uniquely Irish in origin. Newgrange is an utterly fascinating place that will whisper to you of a time beyond the bounds of known history. Be sure to subscribe to our email list to get the latest blog posts about all things Irish and updates about Unlocked.

More on Newgrange and its winter solstice solar alignment coming soon!

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