Dowth is a cairn (covered corridor tomb) dating from the Neolithic period, located in the Boyne Valley in Meath County . Dowth is actually a tomb belonging to a larger archaeological complex, known as Brú na Bóinne, which includes 3 large tombs: Dowth, Newgrange and Knowth.
Dowth would have been the first tomb to be built on the site, and thus the oldest of the three. Raised in the Neolithic, Dowth’s tomb is however smaller, narrower, and has fewer engravings than its neighbors.
However, the tomb was looted as early as the 8th century by the Vikings. It would have been discovered and excavated only in 1847… At that time, the tomb was unrecognizable, and looked more like a grassy hill than a prehistoric site …
The mound of Dowth is 90 meters in diameter and 15 meters high. Its structure consists mainly of blocks of cut stone, arranged one against the other to form a circular enclosure. The rest of the tomb is surmounted by a kind of dome made of small stones, sand, gravel, quartz and earth, which was eventually covered with wild grass. (This is why these mounds have not been clearly identified in the past).
The ensemble thus gives a mound (also called tumulus or cairn), with a covered corridor whose entrance is located on the west side. This corridor, also lined with ashlars, then leads to a cruciform chamber.
Unlike Newgrange and Knowth, this chamber has a roof supported by lintel (not corbels). The walls of this room have some engravings, such as spirals, and radial shapes of all kinds … On the right side of the chamber is then an access to a second chamber, this time L-shaped.
According to the archaeological excavations, this chamber is the oldest in Dowth, the first chamber having been added much later. This chamber is much more deprived than the first one in terms of engravings. However, it has a huge slab on the floor, which has been dug out and slightly ovalized in depth…
According to some theories, this hollowed slab may have served as a receptacle for the bones of the deceased, or any other ritual offering. During the first excavations, remains of bones were found there…
Don’t be surprised if while looking for Dowth, you come face to face with a hill surrounded by stones, with a big oak tree on one of the sides. No, this is not just a hill, but is actually the archaeological site of Dowth, which has been overgrown over the centuries!
Dowth is a tomb that can be partially visited. Thus, you can follow the guide of the Visitor Centre, who will take you on a tour of the tumulus, introduce you to its history, and show you the inside of the tomb’s corridor.
However, you won’t be able to access the cruciform chamber, as well as the second chamber: their lack of accessibility would require you to use a ladder, then crawl a few meters before reaching the chambers? Faced with this difficulty, the chambers are forbidden to access, and have been protected by impassable metal grids.
However, the place is magical for lovers of prehistory and megalithic sites. Don’t miss the visit of the site at the winter solstice: the sunlight hits the entrance of the mound and illuminates the corridor until it lights up 3 stones arranged in the mound.