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"A fascinating insight into Ireland's ancient burial sites" - Irish Independent
Pictures from Dowth's solstice-aligned southern passage
are two known passages at the Dowth mound - both of which are
located on the western side of the site. The short passage and
circular chamber of Dowth south are stark in contrast to the long,
narrow cruciform passages of Newgrange and Knowth.
But the southernmost passage at Dowth shares a common purpose
with the Newgrange and Knowth passages - it also marks a significant
astronomical and calendrical event. Every year at the Winter Solstice,
the rising sun penetrates the long winding passageway at Newgrange
and illuminates the floor of the central chamber.
On the evening of the same day, Winter
Solstice, the chamber of Dowth south is beautifully illuminated
by the setting sun. Mythical
has had rare opportunities to gain access to the interior of Dowth
south and photograph this remarkable astronomical clock, still
working 5,000 years after its construction.
striking feature of Dowth's southern chamber is its circular shape,
and its single recess. Passages at Newgrange
east are cruciform, as is the northern passage here at Dowth. The
circular plan brings to mind Fourknocks,
but even this site retains a cruciform shape with its three recesses.
The photo on left shows the chamber illuminated by natural light
is plenty of decoration in Dowth South, most notably on three
of the chamber stones and in the recess. It is these chamber stones,
and the central one in particular, which receive the beam of sunlight
during the time of Winter Solstice.
During an 'exploration' of Dowth in 1847 by the Royal Irish Academy,
a quantity of bones were found in the chamber, 'mixed with the
clay and dust which had accumulated' according to George Coffey
IN THE DARK
south's single recess, located at right angles to the passage, seems
strange at first. But it actually has a very unique significance
to the Winter Solstice illumination.
the recess is pitch dark, and one needs a torch to see anything
while inside. But around the time of Winter Solstice, when the sunlight
penetrates the passage into the main chamber, an amazing event occurs,
which eyewitnesses have claimed was intentional on the part of the
the sunlight strikes the central chamber stones and bathes the whole
scene in warm light, the glow is reflected into the recess, and
it becomes noticably bright. Bright enough, in fact, for the carvings
on the right-hand recess stone to be seen quite clearly.
recess carvings are shown in the top two photographs on the left.
The top photo shows a series of circles, along with a large double
concentric circle as well as a medium-sized spiral, which are carved
along the top of the face of this stone (C12). The middle photo shows
a stellar symbol, or a 'sunwheel', along with a leaf pattern. These
appear on the bottom part of the stone, and the whole surface around
these carvings has been heavily picked, as the photo shows.
sunwheel brings to mind the patterns on Kerbstone
51, the 'Stone of the Seven Suns'.
last photo in the above sequence shows some engravings in the lintel
stone above the recess entrance. George Coffey, in a visit to Dowth
in the autumn of 1896, discovered these markings and said they were
a 'typical example of the ship-figure so frequently found on rock
surfaces in Scandinavia'. Although the photo does not show the full
extent of the carvings, part of which are covered by a more modern
electric light fitting!!, many have contested that this design, along
with one at Newgrange, do not resemble a ship plan at all.
marks on a stone in the recess at Dowth South. This stone (C10)
faces C12 which contains the beautiful sunwheel and other art
general view of the recess of Dowth South. Stones shown are C10
(left), C11 (straight ahead at end of recess) and C12 (right).
North - this passage, with its astronomical symbolism, may have
been aligned on cross-quarter day sunsets.
Knowth West - spectacularly
Knowth equinox - photos
of sunlight entering Knowth West.
Solstice Light - Winter
Solstice sunrise, photos from inside Newgrange.
to the Dowth page