1990:093 - KNOWTH, Meath

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Meath Site name: KNOWTH

Sites and Monuments Record No.: N/A Licence number:

Author: Helen Roche and George Eogan, Dept. of Archaeology, University College Dublin

Site type: Multi-period site

ITM: E 699430m, N 773518m

Latitude, Longitude (decimal degrees): 53.701880, -6.494157

This season’s work commenced on the 20 March and continued until 28 September. Excavation was carried out mainly on the northern and western areas of the site and concentrated upon four of the principal phases at Knowth:
(1) Western Neolithic Settlement,
(2) Passage Tomb Settlement,
(3a) Site 1, Mound;
(3b) Kerbstones,
(4) Late Iron Age/Early Christian Settlement.


(1) Western Neolithic Settlement
The subrectangular house that was uncovered during the 1989 season was completed this year. The full extent of the east wall trench was excavated and most of the southern wall. However the western end of the southern wall extended beneath the mound of Site 1, where it was not practical to remove further material from the mound. Despite this it has been established that the house measured 8.3m by 5.6m and was aligned east—west. Five substantial postholes were found, two along the east wall trench and three along the south wall trench. A gap measuring exactly 1.8m separated each posthole. Large packing stones were found within the postholes as well as gritty brown earth with charcoal flecks. The remains of two hearths were found within the house and a quantity of Western Neolithic pottery was found both inside and outside the house walls.


 A thin grey sticky layer was identified between the level of the house and the overlying basal sod layers of the mound of Site 1. This represents an old sod level, which indicates that there was an interval between the desertion of the house and the building of the large passage tomb.


(2) Passage Tomb Settlement
The area of passage tomb settlement in Area 4 was completed this year. Over two hundred postholes, six hearths and five small pits have now been uncovered at different levels within the occupation material. This obviously represented several successive phases of habitation within round houses. The area of habitation was associated with an assemblage of Western Neolithic, Sandhills and Carrowkeel pottery as well as flint artefacts and waste pieces.


(3a) Site 1, Mound
An area of the mound on the north western side of Site 1 was excavated. The basal sod layers were exceptionally rich in organic material. An extensive spread of compressed grass, leaves, moss, seeds and insects was found and also well preserved wood and animal bones. Samples of this material have been examined by Ms B. Collins and it appears from the type of vegetation within the samples that the sods were derived from an area of poorly drained land.


(3b) Site 1, Kerbstones 63—97
A section of the kerbstones on the northwestern side of Site 1 was re-checked in advance of conservation. This work included the re-examination of the art, sockets, technology, a survey of all the kerbstones and a complete photographic record.


(4) Late Iron Age/Early Christian Settlement
Limited excavation was carried out on the western side of the main mound. The Iron Age ditch fill below the Early Christian House H and to the rear of Kerbs 76-82, was excavated and recorded. Two hearths and artefacts including iron knives and part of a bronze pin were found, but no evidence for an associated house. The most significant find was a group of three Anglo-Saxon coins which were found in an Early Christian context. All three have been dated to the 10th century by Mr. M. Kenny, National Museum of Ireland. The immediate place of origin for the coins would appear to be the Viking settlement in Dublin.