Yesterday evening, on Summer Solstice in the shadow of the famous Passage Tomb itself, saw the launch of the final volume of a remarkable publication series on the Neolithic passage tomb of Knowth. I launched Volume 7 of the Royal Irish Academy’s Knowth Excavation Series at the Knowth Visitor Centre, which is run by the Office of Public Works.
Knowth is 1 of the 3 great passage tombs that form the core of the Brú na Bóinne World Heritage Property in County Meath, the other 2 being Newgrange and Dowth. Archaeological excavations at Knowth, under the direction of the late George Eogan, MRIA, then at the Department of Irish archaeology in TCD and later Professor of Celtic Archaeology in UCD, commenced in 1962 and continued seasonally until 2000.
Since excavations finished, the focus has been on publishing the results – 6 previous volumes have been published by the Royal Irish Academy dealing with the history of Knowth and its hinterland, the excavation of the smaller satellite tombs, the prehistoric and early medieval settlement at the site, the finds from the site and the passage tomb archaeology.
This final Volume 7, by Professor George Eogan and under the archaeological editorship of Professor Elizabeth Shee Twohig, deals with the megalithic art of the tombs- the Knowth art, carved c. 3,200BC when the tomb was built, is the largest concentration of such art anywhere in Europe, and is dominated by the remarkable decoration of the kerbstones.
The launch was timed to celebrate the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year, such auspicious astronomical dates being considered of great ritual importance to those who built these great monuments. The launch also marked the 60th anniversary, almost to the day, of Professor Eogan commencing his excavations at Knowth. This is a landmark publication of international significance, and the entire series will be a standard reference for prehistoric archaeology for years to come.
Sadly, Professor Eogan passed away last November, aged 91, and the launch was very much a tribute to him and a celebration of his work. Professor Eogan’s wife Fiona and family were in attendance.
It was such an honour for me to launch this remarkable publication on such an important date. All credit to the Academy’s editorial team, to Professor Shee Twohig, to everyone who had a hand in its development and of course to the late Professor George Eogan, for his remarkable legacy of investigation, discovery and research which has enriched all our lives in displaying the achievements of our ancient past.