site (as seen here in 1989) has been excavated since 1962
Knowth is one of the grandest of the 300 or so passage-tombs in Ireland, and along with the other
two great mounds of Newgrange and Dowth,
is part of the huge necropolis found in the Boyne Valley. It consists of a large mound surrounded by 17 smaller ones. The oval main mound varies in
diameter from 80 to 95m (262-311ft), with a height between 12 and 15m (40-50ft). It is probably
contemporary with Newgrange (middle of the 4th millenium BC).
George Eogan's excavations conducted annually since 1962 have shown Knowth to be an exciting
monument. The mound is made up of sod, clay, stones, and shale; some of the stones, up to
4 tons in weight, were probably quarried within a distance of 8-12km
(5-8 miles), though some other smaller stones may have been brought to the site from some
40km (25mi) away.
The mound contains not one, but two great passage-tombs, orientated toward the east and the
west respectively. The two chambers are separated by so little that archaelogists working
inside could listen to each other. George Eogan has suggested that the two tombs may be
purposely orientated toward the rising sun on 20 or 21 March and set on 22 or 23
The western tomb measures 34.2m (112ft) in length and is of the undifferentiated
variety, not absolutely straight, but with an 'elbow' about three quarters of the way, where
the passage turns slightly to the right. The chamber is little more than a widening of the
The eastern tomb totals 40.4m (132.5ft) in length, making it the longest passage-tomb in
Europe. Unlike the western tomb, the passage broadens out into a cruciform chamber. Here the
roof rises to a height of 5.9m (19ft) and is corbelled. The right-hand
niche is the largest of the three and contains a richly decorated stone basin. The burials
were mainly concentrated in the left-hand recess. A
splendid flint macehead decorated with lozenge-shaped facets and superbly executed spirals was found in this tomb.
One of the greatest surprises of Knowth is the number of beautifully decorated stones
of the passages. The walls of both tombs are heavily ornamented with geometrical designs, and
one slab has what look like two eyes on top, so that the whole stone may be a very stylized human figure.