Dowth is the least known of the three great passage tombs at Brú na Bóinne (Bend of the Boyne) in Co. Meath, Ireland. Unlike its neighbors Newgrange and Knowth, the Dowth passage tomb has not yet been thoroughly excavated and is not currently accessible to visitors. However, fine examples of megalithic art have already been discovered inside.
History of Dowth
The great mound at Dowth dates from around the same time as the other Brú na Bóinne monuments, which is about 3000 BC. A large earthen henge was added to the northeast around 2500 BC.
As at Knowth, the mound at Dowth was inhabited in the first few centuries AD. This is evidenced by souterrains (underground storage areas) found on the western side of the mound.
In more recent times, Dowth has suffered much injury at the hands of road builders, treasure hunters and amateur archaeologists (who scooped out the top of the mound in the 1840s, creating the crater seen in the aerial photos). At one point, a teahouse was even perched on its summit.
Dowth has not yet been the subject of large-scale archaeological excavation, but it has been surveyed and investigated by modern archaeologists, including M.J. and Claire O'Kelly (the husband-and-wife excavators of Newgrange). More thorough excavations began in 1998 and are still underway.
What to See at Dowth
Dowth is closed to visitors for safety reasons, but you can drive to the mound and view it from the road. The Dowth mound, mishapen and covered with grass and trees, gives a good idea of what Newgrange and Knowth looked like before they were excavated and restored.
Dowth is larger than Newgrange - about 85m in diameter - and taller than its flat-topped counterpart, with a height of 14m. As mentioned above, the crater in the top is the result of earlier excavations; there is also some quarrying damage on the western side.
The mound is surrounded by 115 kerbstones, some of them decorated. Kerbstone 51 is decorated with seven sun symbols, which likely had an astronomical or calendrical purpose. Inside, investigations so far have revealed two passage tombs, both facing southwest.
The northernmost of these has a 8.2m long passage, which leads to a cruciform chamber containing fine examples of megalithic art and an usual annex continuing off the right-hand recess. Near the entrance, a souterrain (underground storage area) from the early centuries AD links into the passage and runs north.
The southern tomb has a short passage of only 3m ending in a round chamber with a recess on the right-hand side. On the opposite side of the mound is an inward curve to the kerb, which may mark the entrance to another tomb.
Northeast of the mound is a large earthen enclosure (henge) measuring 175 m in diameter with banks 20 m wide and up to 5 m high. It is the largest of several monuments that were constructed in this area around 2500 AD.
Quick Facts on Dowth
|Names:||Dubhadh ("dark") · Dowth|
|Dates:||c. 3000 BCE|
|Visitor and Contact Information|
|Coordinates:||53.703731° N, 6.450369° W|
|Address:||County Meath, Ireland|
|Hours:||Not currently open to visitors, but the adjacent road with a view of the mound is always accessible.|
|Lodging:||View hotels near Dowth|
- Bru na Boinne: Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth, and the River Boyne (Archaeology Ireland, 2003), 18.
- "Ireland: Neolithic Period" - Encyclopædia Britannica
- Dowth Megalithic Passage Tomb - Knowth.com
- Lonely Planet Ireland, 7th ed. (January 2006), 525.
- Andy Halpin and Conor Newman, Ireland: An Oxford Archaeological Guide (Oxford University Press, 2006), 269.
Map of Dowth, County Meath
Below is a location map and aerial view of Dowth. Using the buttons on the left (or the wheel on your mouse), you can zoom in for a closer look, or zoom out to get your bearings. To move around, click and drag the map with your mouse.