1991:104 - KNOWTH, Meath

NMI Burial Excavation Records

County: Meath Site name: KNOWTH

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

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

Site type: Megalithic tomb- passage tomb

Period/Dating: Multi-period

ITM: E 699429m, N 773517m

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

This season’s excavation continued from July to December and concentrated on the east and south-east areas of the site, from the area of Kerb 8 to Kerb 34, Site 1. The work was mainly concerned with (1) Western Neolithic settlement, (2) Passage Tomb habitation, (3) kerbstones, (4) Beaker settlement and (5) limited work related to the Early Christian and (6) post-medieval activity on the site.

(1) Western Neolithic settlement

Evidence for Western Neolithic activity was uncovered in the area in front and immediately south of the entrance to the Eastern Tomb. This was an area which had not previously produced evidence for Western Neolithic activity. Portion of a shallow stone filled trench was found in front of Kerb 8, only part of which was excavated this year. Several small fragments of Western Neolithic pottery were found within this trench. Two similar trenches were found further south, one stretching across the area in front of Kerbs 15, 16 and 17, and a second to the rear of Kerbs 18 and 19. Both were associated with Western Neolithic pottery and a finely made leaf-shaped arrowhead. The dimensions of the above trenches are very similar to those of the sub-rectangular Neolithic house found during the last two seasons at Knowth and the pottery is also similar. It therefore seems reasonable to suggest that the features exposed this year can also be considered as portions of similar houses dating to the same period.

(2) Passage tomb settlement

The south-eastern limit of this settlement was defined this year. As in previous seasons it was identified by a layer of black charcoal-rich organic earth. In the portion excavated this season 51 stakeholes were found. These represent the remains of circular houses, the exact number of which cannot be determined due to renewal but at least three are represented. A shallow pit measuring 0.26m x 0.32m x 0.15m in depth was found associated with the stakeholes. The fill consisted of gritty brown earth and small stones. Sherds of a decorated broad rimmed vessel, of ‘Sandhills type’ were found within it. This material continued as far as Kerb 20, Site 1, beyond which no further evidence for this settlement activity was found.

(3) Site 1, kerbstones 8—34

This stretch of kerbstones was re-checked in advance of conservation. The work included the re-examination of the art, sockets, technology, a survey of all the kerbstones and a complete photographic record. The removal of baulks this year also exposed new art on both the front and back of Kerbstones 18 and 34, extending the already extensive record of art at Knowth.

(4) Beaker settlement

Two areas of Beaker activity were excavated during the season. The most important feature was a circular structure, probably a house, measuring 7m in diameter. It is not yet fully excavated, but so far 16 large post-pits have been exposed, averaging 0.6m x 0.7m in width and measuring up to 1m in depth. Those excavated produced a large quantity of artifacts, both pottery and flint. The pottery consisted of two types of vessel, a well fired flat-bottomed vessel with an incised line either around the inside or the outside of the rim and a coarse flat-bottomed undecorated ware, containing large grits. Several flint flakes, a worked stone and some animal bones were also found. Further work is necessary before the nature of this feature can be fully understood.

Additional evidence for Becker activity was found after the removal of a large baulk in front of Kerb 34, Site 1. This consisted of black organic material lying on the old ground surface, which covered an area measuring 12m x 2m and 0.12m in depth. This layer contained pottery, both highly decorated and undecorated wares being present. Also found was a barbed-and-tanged arrowhead, several flint flakes and scrapers. Just 1m north of this area 6 pits and 8 post-holes were uncovered. Although the black organic layer was absent, their proximity would suggest that the two areas are contemporary.

(5) Early Christian

Only limited work was carried out this year relating to the Early Christian activity on the site. Two large baulks were removed which contained Early Christian material. No features were found, but artifacts including a bronze stick pin, iron knives, portion of a bone comb, some lumps of slag and a quantity of animal bones were recovered from this material.

(6) Post-medieval

Evidence for post-medieval activity was uncovered in the area in front of Kerbs 20—21, Site 1. This consisted of three features, (a) a paved area edged with upright stones, which contained red ash and burnt earth, and immediately outside a concentration of ash mixed with burnt earth was found. (b) A large circular hearth, which was found about in to the east of feature (a). It measured 1.58m x 1.6m and was 0.24m in depth and consisted of charcoal and burnt grain (identification pending). (c.) A series of pits were found immediately south of feature (b). They averaged 2m in diameter and up to 1.5m in depth. The fill consisted of brown earth, boulder clay and stones. Post-medieval artifacts were found associated with the three features. They mainly included pottery but glass fragments and unidentified iron objects were also found.

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