Kerbstone 93 at Newgrange. The quartz and granite wall above is held in place with reinforced concrete from the 1975 restorations..
There are 97 large kerbstones encircling the base of the massive mound at Newgrange. The kerbs are of a type of rock called greywacke and they are thought to have been dragged to the Boyne Valley from Clogher Head some 8 km to the north, near the mouth of the Boyne.
The Newgrange kerbs are arranged end to end in a huge ring that circles the base of the mound. Kerbs delimit the boundry of the mound and helped to contain the cairn of stones. Some of the stones are massive, the largest being 4.4 meters long, and generally they are of better quality than the kerbstones at Knowth and Dowth.
Many of the kerbstones bear bits and pieces of megalithic art, and three fine stones, kerbs 1, 52 and 67 are completely covered in complex panels of engravings. All the art on the kerbs is recorded in Michael O'Kelly's book on Newgrange; the art was recorded by his wife Claire, who traced all visible designs on to clear plastic.
During the excavations it was discovered that a number of kerbs are also engraved on their inner faces, and would not have been visible once the mound was completed. So obviously they were engraved before the cairn was raised or filled, and perhaps represent the expansion over generations of Ireland's neolithic version of Bethleham. Not a lot is known or published about the later times of Newgrange, and certainly nothing digestible for ordinary folk. The kerb represents a massive expansion of what may have been a much smaller monument.
Kerbstone 88 with cup marks and tiny solar engravings, and a row of faint trinagles on the top left of the stone.
It seems that the primary stage of use by the builders of Newgrane may not have lasted very long, though it continued to be remembered and venerated long after the neolithic as Roman coins attest. Several of the kerbs fell outwards when the mound collapsed.
Collecting and dragging the kerbs to the site was surely a mammoth task. The stones were probably dragged on rollers or on a rough sled, and would have required large, well organised work gangs, well equipped with ropes and logs.
A neat little spiral on the top right of kerbstone 97, at 5 meters long, one of the longest kerbstones at Newgrange.