Double Passage-Tomb Tumulus
Co. Meath
Nearest town: Drogheda
Nearest village: Slane
Map references: Map 3 (East) 299274

Knowth ImageThe site (as seen here in 1989) has been excavated since 1962

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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 September.
    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 passage
    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.

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