Banner: Knocknarea at Sunset.
Looking south across the chamber and down the passage of Site Z
Looking south across the chamber and down the passage of Site Z, one of the four satellite monuments at Newgrange.

Site Z at Newgrange

The Boyne Valley complex has about forty neolithic sites in total, all clustered around the three great passage-graves of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth.

On the ridge along with Newgrange are the remains of three more neolithic chambers, and it is suspected that there may have been a fourth. Also on the same ridge are two timber circles, which seem to be late neolithic or early bronze age wood-henges, and also and the remains of two cursus monuments.

Megalithic art from Site Z, illustration by Martin Brennan.
Solar megalithic art from Site Z, illustration by Martin Brennan.

Little remains of the original stones of Site Z, which seems to have been destroyed during the 1820's by a Mr. Kirk who was occupying the land at that time. Michael O'Kelly made this comment about Kirk's activities:

'Site Z, on the other hand, was smashed up with the utmost ferocity. Every orthostat of the kerb and of the passage and chamber of the enclosed tomb that could be broken was smashed into small fragments, each a few centimetres across, and these were then thrown back into the sockets from which the orthostats had been pulled. Those which could not easily be broken, were overthrown and buried adjacent to their original positions . . . All of the damage was done to facilitate cultivation of the area . . .'

Site Z is located right beside and just east of Newgrange and within the large Bronze age circular enclosure of pits. Site Z was discovered during the excavations at Newgrange, and was itself excavated by Michael O'Kelly and his team in 1966. The site had been largely destroyed by ploughing: all this land belonged to Melifont Abbey and was intensively farmed in medieval times.

A photograph of Newgrange from 1936.
A photograph of Newgrange from 1936.

The monument is about twenty meters in diameter. The kerbstones had been removed long ago during land clearance, and their sockets have been marked with ugly concrete stumps, as have the missing passage and chamber stones. The passage is just under nine meters long, and opens into what may have been a large cruciform chamber; a small recess a meter square was found on the right hand side. The site was too disturbed to be sure if a left recess ever existed. An inner arc of five small boulders was found on the west side of the chamber.

Two chalk marbles, a fragment of a bone pin and many pieces of flint were found in the passage during the excavation. Most interestingly, a stone chisel was found in the chamber, a very rare artifact. None were found at Knowth, where so much carving took place. Four beads, three more marbles and six bone pins were also found in the chamber.

Carvings on the stone basin from Site Z, after Claire O'Kelly.
Carvings on the stone basin from Site Z, after Claire O'Kelly.

Martin brennan believes the monument was a component of a suite of alignments over the winter solstice:

The scenario in the Boyne Valley is far more complex than expected: it involves the sun’s rays entering Newgrange at dawn (8.$4 a.m.), mound Z at 10.1$ and mound K at 1 1.20, remaining there until 12.26 Green­ wich Mean Time (equivalent to noon local apparent time). Immediately afterwards the beam would enter mound L, remaining there until 1.09. Between 1.09 and 2.20, when a thin shaft of light appears in the chamber of Dowth 2, the sun’s rays may have illuminated mound Z1, adjacent to Z. This mound has been completely destroyed, although there is some evidence of it in aerial photographs.

By 2.53 the light beam has moved to the back of the Dowth chamber. Reflected light illuminates stone 13 in the side chamber from 3.04 until 3.30. Light is cut off from Dowth at 4.03, when the sun’s disc begins to disappear below the horizon. T h e sun sets at 4.07. The intention seems to be continual ob­servation of the sun throughout the shortest day of the year. Satellites aligned due south appear to be a feature of other major complexes. Cairn T on Loughcrew has one and Knowth also has at least one.

The most unusual find was a decorated stone basin, which looks like a saddle quern, and contained cremated human remains. Some of the decorated stones from Site Z are in the National Museum in Dublin, where they have been reassembled in the passage grave exhibition. Two Roman coins were found at Site Z.

A pair of Roman coins discovered at Site Z.
A pair of Roman coins discovered at Site Z.

Megalithic Survey Report

Situated some thirty meters east of main mound (ME019-045) at Newgrange, this site, on excavation, was shown to be a kerbed mound, c. twenty meters in diameter, with orthostats and sockets representing a passage-tomb with a single side chamber, opening to south south-east. A decorated stone basin was found in the end chamber. An orthostat fragment also bore megalithic art (O'Kelly et. al. 1978, 249-352). Identified by O'Kelly (1978, 47) as Site Z in his Guide to Newgrange. Semi-circular arc of enclosing element of tomb can be seen on Google Earth aerial photographs taken 12 November 2005.

The large standing stone labelled Site C.
The large standing stone labelled Site C, looking up the ridge to Newgrange.

See attached Google Earth image showing semi-circular arc of enclosing element of tomb. See attached pdf showing contour plan of Newgrange which shows location of tombs Z and Z1 (ME019-044003), taken from Kelly et. al. 1978, 253.

The above description is derived from the published 'Archaeological Inventory of County Meath' (Dublin: Stationery Office, 1987). In certain instances the entries have been revised and updated in the light of recent research.
Date of upload/revision: 07 November 2013.
Source: The Megalithic Survey.

Site Z
Site Z, right beside the great mound of Newgrange and within the huge circle of pits.