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Eastern Passage, Knowth, Co. Meath
Knowth, Co. Meath

Knowth (pronounced /ˈnaʊθ/; Irish: Cnobha) is a Neolithic passage grave, an ancient monument of Brú na Bóinne in the valley of the River Boyne in Ireland.

Knowth is the largest of all passage graves situated within the Brú na Bóinne complex. The site consists of one large mound (known as Site 1) and 17 smaller satellite tombs. Essentially Knowth (Site 1) is a large mound (covering roughly a hectare) and contains two passages, placed along an east-west line. It is encircled by 127 kerbstones (3 of which are missing, 4 are badly damaged). The passages are independent of each other (they do not meet) and each lead to a burial chamber. The eastern passage leads to a cruciform chamber, not unlike that to be found at Newgrange. It contains three recesses and basin stones into which the cremated remains of the dead were placed.

The right-hand recess is larger and more elaborately decorated with megalithic art than the others, which is typical for Irish passage graves of this type. The reason for this is unknown. The western passage ends in an undifferentiated chamber (ie: it has no sides, it is a rectangular room). This chamber is separated from the passage by a sillstone. The chamber seems to have also contained a basin stone. This was later removed and is now located about two thirds down the passageway.


Megalithic art

Megalithic Art, Knowth, Co. Meath

Knowth contains more than a third of the total number of examples of megalithic art in all Western Europe. Over 200 decorated stones were found during excavations at Knowth. Much of the artwork is found on the kerbstones, particularly approaching the entrances to the passages. Many of the motifs found at Knowth are typical; spirals, lozenges and serpentiform. However, the megalithic art at Knowth contains a wide variety of images, such as crescent shapes. Interestingly, much of this artwork was carved on backs of the stones. This type of megalithic art is known as hidden art. This suggests all manner of theories as regards the function of megalithic art within the Neolithic community which built the monuments in the Boyne valley. It is possible that they intended the art to be hidden. It is also possible that they simply recycled stones and reused the other side.


There is some evidence for late Neolithic and Bronze Age activity on the site at Knowth. Most of this stems from the existence of a grooved ware timber circle located near the entrance to the eastern passage. Archeological evidence suggests that this was used as a ritual or sacred area after the great mound at Knowth had already fallen into disuse. Evidence for ritual consists of a large number of votive offerings found in and around the immediate areas of the timbers that formed the circle. The Normans used Knowth as a motte in the 12th century.

The hill at Knowth fell into disrepair and the mound or cairn slipped, causing the entrances to both passages to be covered. The site remained practically unused for a period of two thousand years. The site was briefly used as a burial site; some 35 cist graves were found on site during excavations. These seem to be Celtic burials. Many of the bodies found were female. One particularly interesting grave contained the bodies of two young men, decapitated and buried together with a gaming set.

In the late Iron age and early Christian period, it became a hill fort with encircling ditches and souterrains added. By this stage, Knowth for the first time became a habitational site. Two ditches were dug, one at the base of the mound, behind the kerbstones, the other at the top. At this stage, the entrances to both passages seem to have been discovered. Evidence for this include early Christian graffiti on the stones in the eastern chamber. Four names were carved in ogham. It seems it was at this stage, the basin stone from the western chamber was moved, in an attempt to remove it, and was abandoned in the passage because it got stuck. At this time, Knowth was a very significant political site and was the capital of the Kingdom of Northern Brega.

Knowth site

After a brief military interlude with the Normans invasion of Ireland, Knowth fell into the hands of the monks at Mellifont abbey. It seems that the mound was then again used as a grange or farm. Stone walls were built on top of the mound and stone buildings within the walls. After the dissolution of the monasteries, the site was used mainly for agricultural purposes until most of the site was purchased by the state in 1939.

Because of the east-west orientation of the passages at Knowth, suggestions of astronomical alignment with the spring and summer equinoxes exist. The alignment at Knowth does not occur today. This is due to a number of factors. First of all, the passages were discovered by later settlers and were to some extent destroyed or incorporated into souterrains. In other words, the original entrances to the passages were distorted or destroyed so it is difficult to establish if an alignment existed in the first place. It seems likely that the passages were intended to align. Also the alignments of ancient monuments can change due to Milankovitch cycles.

A brief excavation of the site was carried out in 1941 by Professor Macallister. However, major full scale excavations began on the site in 1962 and were undertaken by Professor George Eogan of University College Dublin. When his excavations began, very little was known about the full extent of the site. The entrances to the western and eastern passages were discovered in 1967 and 1968 respectively and slowly the layers of activity at the site of Knowth were uncovered. The excavaion has produced numerous books and reports on the findings. The archaeological excavation of Knowth East ended any chance of research on alignments when Professor George Eogan erected a concrete wall across the East passage entrance. The most extensive research on alignments and astronomy at Knowth was carried out by American Irish researcher Martin Brennan (author of The Stars and the Stones, Thames and Hudson 1983, republished as The Stones of Time 1994).

Access to Knowth

Access to Knowth is by guided tour only. There is no direct access. All tours begin at the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre in Donore, County Meath. There is no access to the grave chambers of Knowth. Visitors are able to see down the eastern passage and visit the modern interpretive room constructed just off this passage.

Kings of Cnogba/Knowth

List incomplete: see Mac Shamhráin, 2004.
  1. Congal mac Áed Sláine, died 634
  2. Conaig mac Congal (a quo Uí Chonaing), d. 662
  3. Congalach mac Conaing, d. 696
  4. Amalgaid mac Congalach, d. 718
  5. Conaing mac Amalgaid, d. 742
  6. Congalach mac Conaing, d. 778
  7. ...
  8. Flannacan mac Cellach (descendant of Congalach), d. 896
  9. Máel Finnia mac Flannacán, d. 903
  10. Máel Mithig mac Flannacán, d. 919
  11. Congalach mac Mael Mithig (rí Cnogba), d. 956

External links


  • Byrne, Francis John, Irish Kings and High-Kings. Batsford, London, 1973. ISBN 0-7134-5882-8
  • Ailbhe Mac Shamhráin, Church and dynasty in Early Christian Brega: Lusk, Inis Pátraic and the cast of Máel-Finnia, king and saint, Table 8.1, Lineages of Síl nÁedo Sláine, p.127; in The Island of St Patrick: Church and ruling dynasties in Fingal and Meath, 400-1148, (ed.) Mac Shamhráin, Four Courts, 2004.

Coordinates: 53°42′06″N 6°29′30″W / 53.70167°N 6.49167°W / 53.70167; -6.49167


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Brú Na Bóinne Archaeological Park article)

From Wikitravel

Europe : Britain and Ireland : Ireland : East Coast and Midlands : County Meath : Brú Na Bóinne Archaeological Park
Newgrange Neolithic Burial Mound
Newgrange Neolithic Burial Mound

Brú na Bóinne (English: "Palace of the Boyne") is an internationally important complex of Neolithic chamber tombs, standing stones, henges and other prehistoric enclosures located in a wide meander of the River Boyne in Ireland. The Brú Na Bóinne Visitor Centre acts as a gateway to the Brú Na Bóinne Archaeological Park for visitors from all over the world and is the starting point for all visits to the archaeological sites of Newgrange and Knowth. It is administered by the Office of Public Works [1] and Heritage Ireland [2]. Newgrange is also on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Access to the other sites in the Brú na Bóinne Archaeological Park is limited. The Dowth site is open to the public direct from the road, but there is only limited access to the southern chamber (during the Winter Solstice alignment) and no access to the northern passage & chamber. Many of the satellite sites are on private land, and therefore access is extremely restricted and requires permission from the landowners.

Get in

By car

From Dublin, take the M1 towards Drogheda. From the west take the N52 via Navan/Slane. On both routes follow the brown/white signage for the Visitor Centre and not for Newgrange Farm. The Visitor Centre is located west of the village of Donore, Co. Meath, Ireland. This tends to cause some confusion among visitors, as the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre is located on the south side of the river Boyne, whereas the sites themselves are located on the north side of the river.

By train

Take a train to Drogheda, then take a local bus from the bus station (see below) a 15 min walk from the train station. Drogheda is well served by direct intercity and commuter services from Belfast and Dublin.

By bus

From Dublin, take the No.100X bus to Drogheda from Busáras bus station [3]), from Belfast take the BE service from the Europa Buscentre to Drogheda. From Drogheda take the the No.163 bus from the bus station to the Visitor Centre in Donore [4].

All access to the Newgrange and Knowth sites is by guided tour only and all tours begin at the Visitor Centre. Anyone arriving directly at the sites will be redirected to the Brú na Bóinne Visitor Centre, where they are placed on the next available tour. Visitors cross the river via a footbridge at the Visitor Centre and are brought by shuttle bus to the sites. Due to the small nature of the interior of the sites, places are limited to max 700 per day, which can fill up quickly - particularly during summer months. Tours are sold on a first come, first serve basis and so visitors are advised to arrive early.

Tour operators

Bus Éireann [5], Mary Gibbons (highly recommended) [6] and Irish City Tours [7] operate regular tours from Dublin to the Visitor Centre and Newgrange site most days.

Entrance to passage tomb
Entrance to passage tomb

The Visitor Centre is open all year round, with longer opening hours in the summer time. The Visitor Centre houses a large interactive exhibition on the Brú na Bóinne area, an audio-visual presentation, a wheelchair accessible replica of the interior of the passage and chamber at Newgrange. It also has a tourist office, gift shop and tea rooms. There is a large car park and a picnic area at the Visitor Centre. There is no left luggage facility.

The Visitor Centre exhibition, audio-visual presentation, return shuttle bus to either site and full guided tour are all included in the entry fee. Visitors have access to the chamber at Newgrange (no photography or filming is allowed). There is only very limited access to the eastern passage of Knowth and visitors may only look down it - there is no access to either passage or chamber.

  • Enter the annual Solstice lottery for a place in the chamber of Newgrange on the winter solstice (21 December).
  • Visit Newgrange on the Winter Solstice in order to witness the rising sun alignment (weather permitting). Access to the site is allowed, but only winners of the annual solstice lottery and other guests are allowed access to the chamber.
  • Visit Dowth on the Winter Solstice in order to witness the setting sun alignment (weather permitting). No lottery applies - usually the assembled people take turns inside the chamber.


There is a cafe, tourist information point & toilet facilities available in the Visitor Centre. Limited toilet facilities are available on-site at Newgrange and Knowth.

  • Newgrange Lodge Hotel [8] - Formerly an old farmhouse, Newgrange Lodge offers hotel accommodation and traditional Irish hospitality at bed and breakfast rates to both groups and the independent traveller alike. We are located opposite the world famous UNESCO Heritage site of Newgrange. The lodge is perched on seven acres overlooking the tranquil, picturesque Boyne Valley.
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Simple English

Main tomb of Knowth

Knowth is the name given to a number of passage graves, in the Boyne valley in Ireland. It consists of a bigger tumulus with two passages, and of 20 smaller ones. Of the smaller graves, 17 remain, 3 have been destroyed. Knowth is approximately 1 km west of Newgrange. It is probably older than Newgrange, which has been dated to about 3.150 BCE, but not as old as Dowth. The main tumulus is one of the biggest to be found in Ireland.


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