Boyne Valley Tour – Part IV

Nowth

Part of the Disney package, so rush, rush, rush. Unfortunately, in order to visit, you must have first toured Newgrange. Otherwise, I’d strongly advise skipping that and heading here for the entire day / five days / however long your trip.

Entering the site, there is an initial feeling of disappointment, as you are faced with what appears to be a miniature mound, similar in scale to Four Knocks. Once inside, however, we were stunned to find that this was only one of 18 satellite mounds sited around the enormous central mound. When I say enormous…

Knowth from the air

Knowth from the air

The main tomb is around 90m in diameter, and contains not one, but two passages. The eastern passage is the longest in Europe, coming in at a hefty 40m in length, and terminating in the standard cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof, similar in scale to that at Newgrange.  The western passage takes the number two spot, at 34m in length, but terminates not in a chamber, but in a dog-leg section.

1

I need a wider lens

The tomb is encircled by 127 kerb stones, giving an average of 2.5m each.

In all, there are 261 stones, including many of the kerb stones, which are covered in prehistoric art. This amounts to 45% of all prehistoric art in Ireland, and a massive 25% of known prehistoric art in the whole of Western Europe!

Many of the kerb stones include artwork on the rear, facing the monument and hidden from observation. (Cue dubious theories galore…)

Eastern Entrance

Eastern Entrance

Unlike at Newgrange, access to the passages and chambers is not allowed. The entrances are approximate mirror images of each other (that on the left being to the eastern passage).

Notice the kerb stone, which acts as a sill at the entrance proper, which is bisected by the standing stone. The artwork on this is a square spiral bisected by a single vertical line. This is mirrored on the western side (which unfortunately I failed to get a good image of).

Kerbstone before the Eastern

Kerb stone before the Eastern Entrance

The western passage, in a strange episode of what many have referred to as cultural vandalism, is now blocked by a concrete wall which appears to serve no structural purpose.

View down the eastern passage

View down the western passage

Once behind this wall, however, we find a modern built room, cut out of the mound, which acts as an interpretation centre and, behind a locked gate, we get a tantalising glimpse of the passage beyond.

Spiral crowned

Crowned spiral inside Western passage

In a monument with two passageways aligned E-W, it may be assumed that Knowth was intended as an observatory of the equinoxes. This has been shown not to be the case (despite what the guides will tell you) and the site is still being investigated for possible options on significant lunar sightings afforded by the two passageways. In apparent support of this, some of the carvings at the ends of the passageways can, with a stretch of the imagination, be seen as lunar maps… of course, when an archaeologist can mistake the grimace of a constipated baboon for that of a man, then what chance that the veracity of this one might be suspect?

With the number of mounds and souterrains to be investigated, and the sheer volume of art-work to be enjoyed, the limited time that you are allowed on site is incredibly frustrating. Plan ahead! 🙂

~~~~~~~

The images below are just a tiny sample of the sheer volume of artwork at the site.  The good news is that the Irish Archaeologists are (rumour has it) about to publish a book containing ALL the neolithic art of the site).

IMG-20140620-00499

The world famous Calendar Stone

Suspiciously “gazing pool” like structures on the western flank

Simple “chipping” technique

IMG-20140620-00517

Hang on… THAT looks more like a man than the baboon at Four Knocks…

IMG-20140620-00518

Octal systems?

IMG-20140620-00531

Lunar observations?

IMG-20140620-00497 IMG-20140620-00501 IMG-20140620-00512 IMG-20140620-00516 IMG-20140620-00519 IMG-20140620-00520 IMG-20140620-00526 IMG-20140620-00533

The following images are (again) shamelessly borrowed from the internet, to give a flavour of the delights tucked away inside the chambers.

“Guardian stone” which sits at the bend in the Western passage

Cremation basin - Western passage

Cremation basin – Western passage

Western Entrance standing stone and sill

Western Entrance standing stone and sill (Copyright MegalithicIreland.com)

About Running Elk

My given native name, Running Elk, was bestowed in 2008 as I took my first steps as a fully fledged Medicine Man of the Zuni tradition. A most unlikely candidate for the role, my journey as a healer began some four years prior. The detour onto the shamanic way was most unexpected, yet has been one of the most rewarding challenges to date.
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7 Responses to Boyne Valley Tour – Part IV

  1. Sue Vincent says:

    Dear gods….

    No… my fingers are just open mouthed…

    Wait till Stu gets here tonight….

    Bloody hell…

    xxxx

  2. ingalicious says:

    I love the Boyne Valley, have been there three times, but I disagree that Newgrange is a wasted visit. The reconstruction of the facade is atrocious, I grant you, but the fact that you get to go inside is unique, and a truly humbling experience. That the ones who built it was able to engineer it so that the roof has never, not in 5000 years, let a single drop of rain water through. In IRELAND! And the central stone, around which the entire structure has been built, which we know since it is larger than the passage into the mound. And the way the passage in has been engineered, to give a single point of unobstructed view from the center of the mound and out, even though the passage is angled. And the triple spiral on the wall in the center is incredibly beautiful and sophisticated.

    Take the reconstructed facade as the warning it is: Archeology is an interpretive science, the truth is that a lot of it is based on assumptions and guesswork that we really have no way of proving, and as they are inevitably influenced by our own frames of associations we can never TRULY know if they are correct or not.

    However, that does not take away from the sheer size and incredible ingenuity and craftsmanship of the people who originally built the mound.

    That being said, I agree with everything you say about Knowth, it is awe-inspiring, and should be an obligatory destination for anyone visiting Ireland.

    • Running Elk says:

      Yup. Sorry about that false impression. More tongue in cheek than anything else… 😉
      Newgrange is indeed well worth seeing. The roof is simply jaw-dropping, and, despite the pressure the guides are under to keep the crowds moving, they are very patient when the bear and friends loiter.. I can’t quite figure out why the rest of our bus left without question… 😀
      Thanks for stopping by (and setting the record straight) 😀

      • ingalicious says:

        Yes, the guides there at Newgrange are amazing. The whole place is very well adapted to the crowds of visitors they receive. I once visited the Connemara Heritage center, and was to take a bus tour to an old cottage. Except the “bus” was in face a tractor, and it pulled a box on wheels, with chairs bolted to the floor! Only in Ireland, hehe.

        Still a fun, and certainly memorable, visit. 🙂

      • Running Elk says:

        Oh, my… real adventure! Certainly creates a memorable picture… 😀

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