The west passage, which is roughly aligned to region of the equinox sunsets
and full moon sets, is about 34 m long. Two large stones, one tall and
thin, the other round and bulky, stand outside the entrance. These
stones are similar in shape to a lot of the avenue stones at Avebury,
where the thinner stone is thought to be male, and the rounder shaped
stone female. Martin Brennan observed a shadow cast by the taller stone
falling on the vertical groove on the entrance stone at sunset around
the equinox, and George Eogan uses a slide of this shadow in his talks
The excavators found six oval 'settings' around the entrance, and an array
of 'exotic' stones placed on the ground. The function of these settings
is unknown. These interesting features have been spotted at other sites
such as Cairn T at Loughcrew,
Queen Maeve's Cairn at Knocknarea,
and outside the entrance to Newgrange.
the chambers are designed for only a few people at a time, it is quite
likely that there were public gatherings outside the entrances on the
equinoxes and other festivals.
There are areas of cobbling and stone
paving outside both entrances. As at the east entrance, there is plenty
of quartz chunks scattered around the area near the entrance.
As with the eastern entrance, the area at the beginning of the passage was destroyed when a ditch was dug during the Iron age, and several of the
passage orthostats were thrown out, some to be re-used in souterrains.
Three engraved stones, thought to be from near the entrance of the west
passage, were discovered by the excavators in the late 1990's.
The passage runs straight east into the cairn for 25 m before bending slightly
to the right near a large carved stone, sill and stone basin. The end of
the passage opens into a large chamber marked by a sill stone engraved
with a similar set of designs to the entrance stone, stone at the bend
of the passage, and the end stone of the chamber.
The walls and ceiling
are constructed of massive slabs, the ceiling being composed of a single
huge stone. It has been postulated that the kink in the passage is the remains
of an earlier structure which was incorporated into the larger mound.
A similar, if much more complex 'kink' is found at Dowth north.
A large decorated stone at the bend in the passage is
considered by some to represent a human face, perhaps a guardian of the
chamber and passage. It has somewhat human features, but given that all
the rest of the art is symbolic and abstract, it is more likely to represent
an astronomical occurrence, such as a setting full moon illuminating the
passageway near an equinox sunrise. Much of the rectangular style of art
at Knowth may represent fast moving beams of light. A basin stone, which
looks as if someone tried to remove it from the chamber in the past, was
found near this strange engraved stone.
At the end of the passage, the space widens to a 'bottle' shaped undifferentiated chamber covered by a massive roof flag. There are a number of beautiful engraved panels of art. The example above, the last orthostat to the left of the keystone, has an elaborate and unusual design where earlier symbols seem to have been picked over later with the symbol or structure with three arches. Again, as with other stones at Knowth there seems to be some red pigment on the stone that may well be ancient.
Again, as on the eastern side of the mound, access to the passage is restricted
to researchers and is difficult to get. Anyone interested in viewing the art needs to make an appointment with the Office of Public Works.