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 Location: Boyne Valley, County Meath, Ireland.  Grid Reference: 53 42' 10.5" N, 6 26' 57" W.

 

      Dowth: (Passage Mound).

Together with Newgrange and Knowth, this passage-mound forms part of the huge megalithic observatory complex in the Boyne valley.

Although not as visually magnificent as Newgrange and Knowth, the Dowth passage mound is in many ways one the nicest of the three to visit, as it is still a 'free-to-roam' site, while the other two are only accessible with rushed tour-guide visits.

Layout of Dowth and passages.

(Map of Site: How to get there)

 

 

   Dowth: (Dubbadh', 'The Place of Darkness')

Dowth is considered to be the oldest of the three passage-mounds that compose the Boyne-valley complex. 

The mound lies about 2.8km NE of Newgrange, it has a diameter of 85m (280ft) and is 14m (47ft) high. It has two original passages, both less spectacular than those at either Newgrange or Knowth with significantly shorter passages and lower roofs. Both are on the western site of the mound, they are termed 'Dowth North' and 'Dowth South'.

Dowth passage mound.

In the last century, a house was built on the summit of the mound.

 

 

The result of the excavation in 1847, and subsequent quarrying on the western face.

 

The 'solar wheels' on Kerbstone 51 at Dowth are similar to those on the backstone of Cairn-T at Loughcrew. These symbols are suggested to have an astronomical or calendrical meaning/purpose.

Both the quality and the quantity of engraving are substantially less than that seen at both Knowth and Newgrange. This supports the idea that Dowth may be the older of the three main Boyne-valley mounds.

 

Quartz was found on the ground outside the kerb-line, showing that the entrance to this tomb was originally surrounding by glittering white chunks of quartzite, as at Knowth and Newgrange.

 

Note: On the opposite side of the mound to the entrances, there is a depression in the kerb stones, where another entrance may well one day be determined.

 

Inside the mound: Two passages have been found on the western side of the mound, both dating back to the original construction. Some of the stones in the passages have been engraved with symbols. A third passage was added much later, around the 1st millennium BC. It is classified as a souterrain.

 

 

The 'Northern' passage :  Is 12-14m long, made of uprights supporting the roof lintels and divided by three sill-stones on the floor (one inscribed in a similar way to those at Newgrange). The passage leads to a cruciform chamber with several decorated stones and a large stone ritual basin in the middle (see right). A further series of small chambers lead off an opening in the south-westerly corner of the main chamber.

Note: The chamber has a lintelled roof, (not corbelled as in Newgrange or Knowth).

'The original entrance to the North chamber is buried in the adjoining field to the west which is private property' (needs confirmation).

The right-hand arm of the cruciform chamber leads into another long rectangular chamber with an L-shaped extension entered over a low sill. It is floored with a 2.4 metre long flagstone containing an oval bullaun (artificial depression).

(More about cruciform chambers and 'libation bowls')

 

The 'Southern' passage : is 8.25 meters long. This short passage leads to a roughly circular chamber with a single recess opening off its southeast side. The roof has been replaced with a concrete replacement.

 Dowth passage-mound

The entrances to the two passages (SW entrance - left), (and NW - right).

(Note the 'hexagonal' cup-mark on the horizontal stone (left).

 

The 'Souterrain' - There is a 21.3m (70ft) long souterrain which crosses to left and right of the main entrance, leading to a series of chambers with a beehive chamber at either end. This souterrain was probably originally constructed in the 1st millennium BC.

 

Chronology of the Site - The site is contemporary with the other Boyne valley mounds, which places it at around 3,300 BC.

The Annals of Tighernach tell of Dowth being plundered and burnt in 1059, with a record in the Annals of the Four Masters of three great early battles at Dowth, and a later burning in 1170.

 

Dowth Henge: 'Site Q' is an embanked enclosure, located roughly east of Dowth passage-mound. It is reputedly the second largest such enclosure in Ireland (Coffey 1912, P.60). The henge has two openings, but archaeology suggests that only one is original. Both openings are aligned to the summer solstice. Henges are often earlier constructions than either passage mounds or stone circles.

(More about Henges)

 

Archaeo-astronomy - Dowth passage-mound has two passages, one orientated towards a cross-quarter day sunset, and the other to a minor lunar standstill. The internal passages are oriented to sunsets, one to Samhain when the sun 'dies' for the year as it goes underground, the other the longest night of the year, the winter solstice sunset.

Dowth shares a special solar celebration with neighbouring Newgrange during the winter solstice. From November to February the rays of the evening sun reach into the passage and then the chamber of Dowth South. During the winter solstice the light of the low sun moves along the left side of the passage, then into the circular chamber, where three stones are lit up by the sun. (Ref: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dowth)

The convex central stone reflects the sunlight in to a dark recess, lighting up the decorated stones there. The rays then recede slowly along the right side of the passage and after about two hours the sun withdraws from Dowth South.

(The Boyne Valley Complex)

(Knowth)

(Dowth)

(Passage Mounds)

(Other Prehistoric Irish Sites)

 

 

 

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