Fantastic article on Newgrange by Jane Smiley:
"Experts are beginning to agree that Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth once served as astronomical monuments, noting their level of sophistication. Archaeologists rejected these ideas as fantasies for a long time, interpreting the orientation of the passages at Newgrange and Knowth as coincidental and the incised stones as a set of meaningless geometric designs.
In his 2012 book, “Newgrange, Monument to Immortality,” the Drogheda journalist and novelist Anthony Murphy points out that Neolithic farmers would have had many reasons to pay attention to weather, seasons and the passage of time. He also observes that they would be much more likely to pay close attention to the moon and the stars than we do, with our electric lights and internet data. He considers Newgrange and Knowth epic calendars that measured years, leap years and other temporal cycles.
I widened my range a little — there was so much to see, both in terms of landscape and of historical structures. In Monasterboice, six miles north of the river, there is a circular tower and a crowded graveyard containing the oldest known Celtic cross, still in beautiful condition. Not far from Collon — four miles from Monasterboice — are the remains of an enormous abbey from the 12th century (Old Mellifont), simultaneously neat, airy and spooky. There are towns (Donore, Navan) and castles (Trim, from the Norman period, and Slane, reconstructed in the 18th century, now the site of big rock concerts). There is Drogheda itself.
But Newgrange is the beginning — DNA analysis and archaeological evidence indicate that farming in the region began somewhere around 4500 B.C. It may have been that farmers from the Middle East came up the river in those log boats, discovered the unusual fertility of the valley (a result of the last ice age) and encountered an entrenched indigenous population. But there are no signs of a conflict; either the Neolithic farmers mixed peacefully with the Mesolithic foragers, or the foragers themselves imported agriculture, took those log boats to the east and returned. It was the farmers, having cleared the land and harvested their crops, who had the leisure time to build one passage tomb after another, Mr. Murphy suggested.
Archaeologists and investigators are not finished in the Valley of the Boyne. Many things are waiting to be discovered, put together, understood. As I looked across the rich green flow of the hills toward the setting sun, I expected to come back to this mystery."