Sadly, Dowth, “The House of Darkness”, is no longer accessible. A botched attempt at opening the tomb in the 19th century left it with a massive bowl on top, and the entire structure is apparently unstable. Nevertheless, the approach is rather impressive, with the mound sitting high above a shallow incline at its base.
The entire structure is ringed by a kerb of 115 large stones, 15 of which contain carvings. The most famous of these is kerbstone 51, “The stone of the seven suns”: only the northern most (bottom right) is obvious on the image. The others are there… honest!
The mound contains two chambers, accessed from the western flank, and almost directly opposite kerbstone 51. The threshold kerbstone to the southern chamber appears to be displaced, and may actually be lying on its back: it doesn’t make sense, to me, that the two cupmarks would be semi buried… but then, what do I know?
The entrance itself is small, and closed off by a metal grille. Oh, to get inside!
Smaller of the two chambers, it is different from most; as the full set of recesses required to provide a cruciform plan are absent. Instead, it consists of a short passage terminating at a sill stone, over which is entered an almost circular chamber. The chamber itself contains a single recess to the south.
A snapshot through the grille merely whets the appetite…
Observations inside have shown that this chamber is aligned to the setting sun at the winter solstice. As such, it may have been a “backup in case of rain” to Newgrange (which can be seen a few hundred yards down the valley from the top of the mound).
The northern passage has no apparent function in solar observation, due to the sharp turn to the north made prior to reaching the threshold.
It may be the case that this second chamber has some function in lunar observation: the passage beyond the threshold falls steeply enough to suggest it may mark one of the lunar standstills – but without some detailed measurements, this is just a guess akin to the pseudo-archaeo-“dubious claims” category already alluded to elsewhere…
An image taken through the grille shows this steep incline, terminated by what appears to be a turn to the right. This may, in fact, be the side wall of a recess and the passage probably does not extend in this direction.
The chamber is, however, unusual in that, whilst the main chamber and it’s recesses produce the standard cruciform plan, the recess to the right is more akin to an annexe, and contains two further recesses.
Recommend wire cutters for this must see feature (though if you are caught, I will deny all knowledge… )