You were born to be an artist. It’s in our DNA.
“We don’t know why these people built these structures or even what they are for, we can only guess.” I listened to my tour guide as I took in the massive structure, older than the pyramids. It looked a bit like a mushroom top. It wasn’t just the structure itself that made me so happy, though. It was those big, beautiful stones surrounding and supporting it.
The structure itself took, we think anyway, between 60-80 years to create. That was 3-4 generations of people who likely labored away to create these burial mounds. The mounds were surrounded by giant stones from another region, nearly 80 kilometers away. Imagine wanting to build something so much that in a time before the wheel, you lugged stones weighing TONS from one side of a large island to another by rolling them on logs. There were likely other resources people of the time could have used, but it was decided these boulders were what was needed. Certainly sounds like an artist to me.
I had the great fortune to visit Ireland recently and a huge highlight of my trip was visiting the two megalithic sites Knowth and Newgrange. I made a point to include prehistoric sites in our tour because there is something about them that really speak to me and connect with me in a way other pieces of history don’t. I had no clue what I was about to witness.
Knowth and Newgrange, along with Dowth, have become a UNESCO World Heritage site. We arrived at the tourist center to find out they do guided tours of both Knowth and Newgrange. I had only heard of Newgrange but somehow convinced my hubby we should do both. I’m SO glad we did. As we waited in line to get on a tour bus we enjoyed the weather (yes it can be nice in Ireland) and each other’s company.
Arriving at Knowth was a revelation. These giant mounds of bright green earth loomed above me as I climbed out of the bus. We walked up through the entryway and towards them and observed their height felt so massive because they were on a hill. The green grass growing over them helps reinforce the story that sediment had built so high up on this particular hill that no one knew about Knowth and it’s many smaller mounds (18 of them) until real archaeological excavations began in 1962.
The tour guide told us that the Boyne Valley mounds have 2/3rd of the WORLD’S known megalithic art. It’s some of the oldest art in the world and most of what we have discovered has been found in this one location in Ireland. Because this is before the written record, we can only guess at what these symbols and structures mean. Archeologists look at artifacts around the site to help them make educated guesses to the use and importance of these places.
The stones have clear marks on them, and considering the hardness of the stone and the notched indentations created by the artists, these marks were deliberate and likely thought out. Artists of the time had to use other stones to make those marks, repeatedly tracing their lines over and over again to get their satisfied result.
For a group of people, whose average life span is 25 years old, to decide to create something that would take well beyond their lifetime to complete, well, that’s one ambitious project. It must have some kind of great meaning and importance to dedicate the manpower, time and resources to it’s creation. The structures directly relate to the summer solstice, which is important for a budding agricultural society. At Newgrange, above the entryway, there is a window that during the solstice, the sun shines through all the way to the inner tomb in the middle of the mound. Today, you can apply via a lottery to visit Newgrange and the tomb on this special day.
Standing in front of that history, seeing those ancient marks made me emotional. I wanted to cry a little, I wanted to run up and hug those big boulders. Our oldest record of human history is not text, but art. Before man invented language, there was architecture and art. Our oldest part of ourselves, a piece of humanity that has passed down from these forebears, exists in us today.
The desire to create. The passion to create something larger than ourselves.
To be human is to be an artist.
BE COURAGEOUSLY CREATIVE: Have you been to any historical sites with art that inspired you? Tell me where in the comments below!