Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy Midwinter Remembrance from 50 centuries ago

The best of blogging: Kieran Healy at Crooked Timber reposts an appreciation of Newgrange, a 5200-year-old wonder of the world in County Meath, Ireland, 500 years older than the Great Pyramid and a thousand years older than Stonehenge.

If you live in an agrarian society, as the overwhelming majority of people did until about two hundred years ago, and you are on the western edge of Europe, few times are harder than the dead of Winter. The days are at their shortest, the sun is far away, and the Malthusian edge, in Brad DeLong’s phrase, is right in front of you. It’s no wonder so many religious festivals take place around the solstice. Here were a people, more than five millennia ago, able not only to pull through the Winter successfully, but able also to build a huge timepiece to remind themselves that they were going to make it.

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