Symbols of Ireland. Part five

Megalithic Ireland. Ogham stones, dolmens, portal tombs.

The first main idea of a theme of our trip was ‘megalith and celtic Ireland’. Reading more and more about celtic culture and pre-christian history of the country, I was so charmed about this mysteries period of Irish history, full of legends, myths and stories. Travelling across these sites, we were so impressed of each of them — it’s still wild and fit so harmoniously into the surrounding landscape, that you can’t even imagine them apart from each other. So, standing nearby megalithic site, an ogham stone or a dolmen, have a feeling, that borders of ages disappear and you became a part from long history of place.

Ballynageeragh Dolmen

And now a little bit oh history facts 🙂

Ogham is an early medieval alphabet used to write the early Irish language, founded in 4-6th century. Although some scientists suggest that earliest inscriptions in ogham could be written in 1st century BC. Ogham used not only in Ireland, you can find it in Scotland and Wales, around Irish Sea. The alphabet is made up of 20 letters and divided into four groups. Each letter looks like a series of strokes, strung on the main line and written from left hand side to the right side, or from the bottom to the up.

Nobody knows exactly where the name Ogham came from and witch language was the template of it, but the most think the Latin alphabet was the template. Other points of view are that is came from Greek alphabet, another is that Germanic runes has similarity with Ogham. Ogham is sometimes referred to as the «Celtic Tree Alphabet» as a number of the letters are linked to old Irish names for certain trees. Also the alphabet was carved on standing stones to commemorate someone, using the edge of the stone as the centre line.

On the left is the picture of one of the tree ogham stones in Admore, co. Waterford, you can find them in St. Declan’s Cathedral. It has two inscriptions, that read:


Another stone found lying beside a grave, the inscription reads:


It interesting fact, that ogham stones you can find anywhere in Ireland: in cathedrals, privat territories, on the top of the hills or even as a part of someones stone fence.

The next two Ogham stones we found on the Dingle Peninsula, co. Kerry in Ballinvoher medieval church graveyard. On the stone below apparently is written:



On the another stone (with the cross) inscription has suffered some damadge, but it seems reads:


In co. Kerry we reached Kilmalkedar Romanesque Church 2 ogham stones are situated.

The first one stands inside the church.

This is the alphabet stone, stands at 1.22 metres high, the stone was originally taller, but the top has been broken off. The west face of this stone is inscribed with the latin alphabet in half uncial script dating to the 6th century and an earlier inscription with the letters DNI meaning Domini.

The second one is in the graveyard, in front the church. It stands at 1.83m in height and the inscription reads:


The second inscription (on the left side on the photo) reads:


This big stone cross on the left looks not high and with simple design, but in fact it has 2.5 metres height! During excavations it appears that 1.8m of the shaft lay below ground level.

Nearby of ogham stone and cross is situated another interesting object. It is Sundial. The south east face of the head is divided into four equal sections by lines radiating from the gnomon hole. The north west face of the head is decorated with a cross of arcs. It is now believed that the cross of arcs was a symbol of pilgrimage. The symbol appears on many stones associated with pilgrimage or pilgrimage routes.

Not only Ogham stones remind us about megalithic history of Ireland. Around all the island in each county you can meet dolmens, stones circles and other ancient signs.

Drombeg Stone Circle, co. Kerry

During the excavations in 1957 was discovered, that in the centre of this circle in the pot was buried remains of a teen, wrapped with thick cloth. Radiocarbon tests of these remains showed, that this adolescent lived in 1100-800 BC. Around pot were found other 80 smashed sherds, also bits of shale and sweepings from a pyre.

At the right side of the Circle you can find so call Fulacht fiadh — a communal cooking pit with a hearth, pictured right. Hot stones were taken from the fire and dropped into the water trough, recent tests have shown they could boil seventy gallons of water in about fifteen minutes.

Creelkeel, co. Sligo

This is one of the finest Court Cairns in Ireland. Built in the Neolitic period 4000-2500 BC, it consist of a wedge-shaped mound, with a burial chamber opening off the open central court. Near the narrow end of the mound are two further graves. In the Early Christian period iron was smelted in the central court.

The excavations in 1935 uncovered four cremation burials, decorated and undecorated Neolithic pottery, flint arrow heads, polished stone axes and other artifacts, including a chalk ball.

That’s all for today. Next time I’ll tell you about another symbol of Ireland — Round Towers, abbeys and early christians sites.

Previous part you can find here:

Symbols of Ireland. Part one: Cliffs and Wild Atlantic

Symbols of Ireland. Part two: Cliffs and Wild Atlantic — continue

Symbols of Ireland. Part three: Emerald fields and valleys

Symbols of Ireland. Part four: Mountains or Ireland from the fly heigh.


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