At a Glance
County Meath
OS Map 43
OS Coordinate O 109 620
Archaeological Inventory 22, 107, 277
Inventory Reference SMR 33:28
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Ancient Ireland Home

Fourknocks, Co. Meath

Location: From Naul, take R 122 southwest for approximately 1 kilometer to the first right-hand byroad. Continue northwest along this narrow road to the T-junction (1.5-2 km). Turn left and watch for the signposts on the left pointing to the paved track across the road (Fourknocks mound is on the right). The tumulus is up this short path along the fence line. A notice is displayed at the start of the path giving directions to where the key can be obtained.

Dimensions: Fourknocks mound was 19 meters in diameter, surrounded by a low drywall kerb containing a cruciform passage tomb opening to the NNW. A short passage leads to a large central chamber. Three recesses open off the large pear-shaped central chamber, 6.5 meters by 7.5 meters. Twelve large stones bear megalithic art. One of these is thought to be a stylized human form.

Features: Beautiful examples rendered in swirls, spirals, chevrons and lozenges on a dozen lintels and orthostats.

Comments: Much has been made of the "human" face here. While the carving is certainly different from the usual megalithic art (fine examples being in evidence throughout this tomb), I am not convinced that this is what the artist had in mind. Pressed to supply an alternative description, I'll just squint my eyes and use my imagination to see the big 'ole smiley face here.

History: Fourknocks was first excavated in 1950-52 by PJ Hartnett. A mantling mound of clay which sealed and contained cist and pit burials was added to the passage tomb. Four of these kists, inserted into the cairn of the tomb contained the crouched burials of children. One cist was empty. Grave goods consisted of one food bowl. A possible pit burial contained another food vessel. Cists, sealed by the mound, had two cinerary urns (holding cremated remains) inserted into pits. A single posthole in the center of the chamber is thought to have possibly supported a timber roof. During reconstruction after excavation a concrete roof was placed over the chamber for protection. This sodded dome has been thoughtfully designed with tunnelled holes through which natural light is creatively directed onto the exceptional megalithic art. The underside of the dome has been coated and painted black so as not to detract from the monument interior.

During the Historic period in Ireland the separate burial of unbaptised infants reused earlier monuments, often those with Early Christian associations. These cillini (children's burial grounds) were also frequently situated in marginal locations. A review of the prehistoric evidence suggests the differential treatment of infants during the Neolithic-Early Bronze Age - in particular the location of infant burials in the passages of two later Neolithic sites at Fourknocks, Co. Meath.

Other Items of Interest: Situated approximately 50 meters to the east is another burial mound, also excavated in 1950-52. It is to the right when approaching the reconstructed mound, on the opposite side of the tall wire fence. This should discourage visitors from accessing this sister-tomb as it is frequently used for grazing livestock.

  © 2005 F.J. & K.D. Schorr - All rights reserved.