We Dig Archaeology
Ireland 9. Knowth, County Meath
Knowth archaeological site: The archaeological site of Knowth has a complex and important 5000 years of history. The oldest passage tombs on this amazing archaeological site were constructed in the Neolithic (New Stone Age) 4000-5000 years ago (3000-2000 BC). They were a thriving farming community skilled in architecture, engineering, geology, art and astronomy. Even before the tombs were built, there is evidence of houses dating from as early as 4000 BC and tomb building began about 3300 BC and ended about 2900 BC.
Knowth archaeological site: After this period activity seems to have declined at Knowth (e.g. no clear bronze age finds, in fact little of any significant archaeology) and nothing significant happens for 2000 years but by the early centuries AD of the Iron Age, burial of the dead resumed but not via cremation and bones from over 35 internments have been found.
Knowth archaeological site: Later, from the 8th century onwards Knowth became an important Christian site, so its religious significance was under new ownership! Huge ditches were dug to transform the site into a well defended complex. Between the 8th and 12th centuries quite a large village settlement grew up around the main mound and ancient historic records show that it was a royal seat of power - the Kings of Norther Brega. In the Norman period of the 12th-14th centuries the lands surrounding Knowth became part of the estates of the rich and powerful Cistercian Abbey of Mellifont. There is evidence of a rectangular stone building on the flat plateau of the central Neolithic mound.
Knowth archaeological site: These are burial mounds and the tomb complexes, which contain cremated burials, are surrounded by huge kerb stones, many of which are richly inscribed with elaborate mysterious geometrical designs. These kerb stones were transported some distance and the rocks used do not occur locally. All of these mounds were overgrown and disused for centuries, but from 1962 onwards, archaeological teams led by Professor George Eogan have gradually uncovered the 'secrets', wonders and the multi-faceted history of Knowth.
Knowth archaeological site: Knowth's largest mound of passage tombs was built later than some of the smaller ones because it is carefully engineered around them e.g. the left tumulus is older the large tumulus on the right.
Knowth archaeological site: This picture of the tombs shows the same scene as the picture above it, but standing much further away.
Knowth archaeological site: Snake and spiral carvings in the kerbstone rocks.
Knowth archaeological site: More rectangular carvings.
Knowth archaeological site: (above and below) The 'Sun' carving near the eastern passage entrance.
Knowth archaeological site: The stone lined eastern passage grave entrance, still standing true after ~5000 years.
Knowth archaeological site: Snake and spiral carving.
Knowth archaeological site: The roof of the grass covered mounds is built of stone corbelling where the builders used overlapping layers of large flattish rocks. The corbelled roof was then capped with a large flat capstone when the remaining 'hole' could be safely sealed. Like at Newgrange, they are still water proof today. The River Boyne is in the distant background.
Knowth archaeological site: Carvings of circles on a kerb stone.
Knowth archaeological site: One of the most complex spiral carvings on any of the rocks at Knowth.
Knowth archaeological site: The upright logs mark where traces of a wooden pole complex at Knowth were found dating from ~2500 BC, so later than the adjacent corbelled stone grass covered mounds.
Knowth archaeological site: A stone of spirals.
Knowth archaeological site: A double spiral giving a pair of horns shape.
Knowth archaeological site: Some upright standing stones were found associated with these megalithic complexes.
Knowth archaeological site: Knowth archaeological site: Two of the outer smaller 'satellite' passage tombs at Knowth.
Knowth archaeological site: One of the smaller entrances to the largest mound complex. There is a small entrance like this to the other smaller tomb-tumulus mounds at Knowth.
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