16 Dec Solstice Light
Long before the dawn of chronobiology, the science of biological timekeeping, there was evidence to suggest that our earliest ancestors had a keen interest in monitoring the passage of time. Our Stone Age kin held particular reverence for the timing of the sun’s passage on the mid-winter solstice, on or around December 21st.
The existence of monumental megalithic stone circles and burial tombs, designed by primordial architects to catch and direct the rays of the solstice sun, demonstrate an intimate understanding of the daily and seasonal changes in the solar passage in early cultures. At Newgrange in County Meath, Ireland, the entrance to a grand Neolithic passage tomb (dating 3200 BC ) is aligned to catch the first rays of the rising sun on the winter solstice. At this time each year, sunlight shines through a ‘roofbox’ and penetrates 19 metres of passage to flood an inner chamber. No small feat for the architects of the time, considering 200,000 tonnes of stone make up the main mound of the tomb. Experts believe that it may have taken 30 years to build, and all to catch 17 minutes of light on a few short days of the year. While the exact cultural significance of the sun’s light at these specific times for Stone Age people is unknown, the time and labour involved in creating these giant timekeepers indicate a deep spiritual connection with the solar passage and light.
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