• Splitting rock art in Carlow

    In recent years the discoveries of early prehistoric rock art in Carlow has increased steadily and one of the trends in the county has been the discovery of decorated stones built into modern field boundaries. One such find from Knockroe, between Ballymurphy and Kiltealy, is also one of the most intriguing. In November 2007 the owner Andrew Lloyd widened an existing gate between fields and found the first piece of what proved to be a rock art puzzle. Having noticed that the stone was clearly cut from a larger piece, Andrew was able to identify other stones in the wall that looked as if they may have formed part of the original stone, and soon found two more decorated pieces. These large stones were built into the bottom of the drystone wall and were only partially visible.

    In August 2010 Andrew very kindly gave permission to dismantle the wall in order to extract the stones. Andrew also organised the crew and a machine to carefully lift these stones out of the wall and reposition them nearby. Very soon we found the fourth and final part of the jig saw. It proved difficult to reconstruct them flat on the surface, as they would have been originally. Instead, we opted to reassemble them in an upright position where they fitted neatly together, forming one side of the field gate where they were found.

    The stone tells a very interesting history. Though today the stone resembles a decorated orthostat of a passage tomb, when the decoration was originally applied to this stone in the Neolithic it was a low lying recumbent boulder measuring 1.6m x 1m across. The decoration consists of a series of cup and rings (some oval rather than circular) – mostly multiple rings, and many featuring lines extending from the central cup marks. This is one of the largest and most decorated examples from Carlow. At some point in time, perhaps late in the 18th century, the surrounding fields were improved and cleared - the large earthfast boulders were broken up and built into the stone walls. The fact that this stone was so obviously decorated with ancient art did not deter the stone cutters who maliciously, albeit carefully, split the large boulder into four equal pieces using wooden wedges, the scars of which are very much evident on the stone today. The final act of disrespect on the part of the stone cutters was to build the broken pieces into the wall in such a way that they were so well concealed that their recent discovery was purely accidental. This is not the first and presumably not the last example of rock art to be found concealed within the stone walls of Carlow.

    7 Comments

    • 1. May 18 2015 2:51PM by Finola

      Great piece of rock art, and what a story!

    • 2. May 18 2015 10:10PM by nick keogh

      the inner and outer circuliar carvings resemble aerial views of ringforts could this have been some type of ancient map for some part of of carlow in neolithic times!

    • 3. May 18 2015 9:10PM by nick keogh

      the inner and outer circuliar carvings resemble aerial views of ringforts could this have been some type of ancient map for some part of of carlow in neolithic times!

    • 4. May 19 2015 11:54AM by peter style

      Good to see these stones being rescued, well done to all!

    • 5. May 20 2015 7:58PM by Jennie Reid

      While I don't agree with your assessment of a stone cutter's motives, I found the article interesting, and I've included a link to it in my blog post this week - www.jenniereid.com.au

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