Knowth has a huge collection of megalithic art engraved on it's stones. Since
excavations and conservation finished, it is possible to walk right around
the main mound and view the kerbstones. The quality of the stones used
varies, some being quite rough, but of the 127 kerbstones, nearly all
have been engraved, and several are outstanding examples of neolithic
The predominant motifs are sinuous curvey lines and circles, and over all they give a strong impression of representing lunar phases and cycles. On several of the stones, a development seems to be occuring, for example, of the moon waxing and waning as it moves through it's cycle.
The art at Knowth strikes
me as predominantly of a symbolic astronomical nature, and the best example
is the engraved basin or cauldron, above, to be found in the right-hand recess
of the eastern chamber.
My suggestion, which takes on bord
the work of Brennan and Stooke, is that Knowth is a specifically lunar
site, and was dedicated to studying the long cycles of the moon which
recurr every 18.6 years.
Although archaeology has finally caught up with
some of Brennan's ideas and accepted that the east and west passages have alignments to the equinoxes, it is likely that the alignment also focuses
on the full moons nearest the equinox.
At some stage in the 18.6 year lunar cycle
there would have to occur grand alignments where the rising sun/setting
moon and rising moon/setting sun simultaniously illuminate the main passages.
This seems to be the message engraved in the stone basin, and such a grand
scheme fits the magnificance of the site of Knowth.
According to George Eogan in his 1986 account of Knowth:
'Europe has about 900 stones with megalithic
art from about 50 passage-tombs or related sites, but 400 of these come
from the Brugh na Bóinne tombs and a further 127 from the other
Meath passage-tombs: clearly this region was Europe's leading one for
To summerise the Knowth data we can say:
has more than a quarter of the known megalithic art from all other areas
of Europe, including Ireland.
has more than twice as many decorated stones as are found in Iberia.
considerably exceeds the number of decorated stones known from Brittany.
has about 45% of the total known megalithic art from all Irish passage-tombs.
exceeds by about 100 the total number of decorated stones from the other
Brugh na Bóinne monuments.
has more than twice as many decorated stones as are known from Loughcrew.
Brennan's drawings of the sundials at Knowth from The Boyne Valley Vision.
it could be said in general that though the Knowth art is less finished
than the main Newgrange stones, the basin and mace-head from the east chamber
represent some of the finest and most important neolithic artifacts found
in western Europe. Several of the stones in the satellites are also engraved.
Most of the kerbstones of the central mound are engraved and there are several
outstanding designs on the stones. A good referance is Martin Brennan's
book 'The Stones of Time' which has illustrations of a large portion of
the Knowth artwork. The stone illustrated below is a fine example of the
kerbstone art. Brennan believes it represents a lunar calendar/sundial.
Graffiti at Knowth
Both of the chambers within Knowth have graffiti dating to the 8th or 9th century during the medieval occupation of Knowth. The Vikings plundered the caves of Cnogba in 863, when Knowth was a small village based around the old fort.
Many souterrains were built at this time, some using megalithic stones from the entrances and the smaller mounds. It was at this stage that the entrances to both passages were removed when a substanial ditch was dug within the kerb. Another ditch was dug around the top of the mound.
There are at least 20 inscriptions within the two chambers, some of which are in ogham, while others are in a fine insular script.
Perhaps someone spent time down in the chamber studying the neolithic art.