Readable and interesting, this publication on Newgrange takes us beyond archaeology into some of the more interesting characteristics of the mound that provoke a whole range of reactions from those who get caught in its web of mystique.
Murphy examines the background to the construction of the great mound and passage tomb, with particular emphasis on the community effort and technical skills that would have been required in its construction.
The importance of the celestial movements and the annual cycle of the sun are of particular significance, and several chapters are devoted to this aspect of the tomb’s construction. In subsequent chapters the author explores the ‘womb or tomb?’ theme, drawing attention to the questions concerning the function of such tombs that go beyond burial and disposal of the dead.
Newgrange is still a meaningful place for modern people, who are attracted to its sense of spirituality. Murphy develops this theme further in discussing the accounts of people who have described their own ‘near death experiences’, where lights at the end of tunnels are commonly reported (the metaphor for death is a strong one when seen in this context!).
Subsequent chapters on cave myths and the author’s own experience in the tomb at solstice provide an intriguing juxtaposition of ancient accounts from the past and the modern-day reality of visiting the interior of Newgrange. The book itself is beautifully produced and illustrated throughout with high-quality colour images.