Fourknocks Passage Tomb – Stamullen, Ireland - Atlas Obscura

Fourknocks Passage Tomb

Stamullen, Ireland

An ancient chamber filled with wonderful rock art and a Neolithic carving of a human face. 


Entering this tomb reveals a dark, moody world complete with spectacularly spiraling rock art and a carving believed to be a rare Neolithic-era depiction of a human face. Yet as intriguing as the tomb is, it remains largely off the beaten tourist track.

Fourknocks (Irish: Fuair Cnocs, meaning “cold hills”) dates from between 3000 to 2500 BC. The tomb was discovered in 1949 when a woman visiting nearby Newgrange commented that there were mounds like it on her uncle’s farm. The tomb was excavated by PJ Hartnett between 1950 and 1952.

Excavations revealed items like beads, a foot bowl, cremated remains in urns, and a central post hole that is likely to have held up a wooden or animal-skin roof rather than a stone roof typically seen at other sites. In all there, the cremated and unburnt remains from more than 60 burials were discovered. All objects are now in the National Museum of Archaeology in Dublin.

Compared to Newgrange and other larger sites, Fournocks has a short passage, which opens into a chamber. Though the passage is on the shorter side, the chamber is rather large, clocking it an impressive 452 square feet (42 square meters). It has three offset chambers, complete with rocks adorned with ancient art. The site also has a decorated lintel stone that originally would have spanned the passage. There are 12 decorated stones inside the chamber in total. One of the other interesting examples of rock art is what is believed to be an early depiction of a human face, which is on a standing stone placed near the front of the chamber to the left.

Today, a concrete roof protects the site, which has light slits in it to illuminate the back part of the chamber and the passageway. The entrance is also guarded by an iron door, but it’s possible to acquire the key and explore its interior.

Know Before You Go

Fourknocks can be difficult to find, so use GPS if driving. You can collect the key for the entrance door to Fourknocks Passage Tomb from Mr. Fintan White, who lives about a mile from the tomb. The key must be collected and returned before 6 p.m. There are directions at the site by the door. A cash deposit of €20 is required for the key and is refundable on returning it. Remember this is a National Monument, don’t litter or damage any of the stone.

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