• Two newly discovered medieval slabs from Hollywood, Co. Wicklow

    I love visiting graveyards – you just never know what you might find – even when you think that you know a graveyard well and have visited it numerous times before, they have a wonderful habit of throwing up something new. Back in 2003 I published an article in the Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland in which I described a series of medieval graveslabs from west Wicklow, as well as neighbouring parts of Carlow and Kildare. I used the term Hollywood Slabs to describe the series, partly because it has a great ring to it, but also because this was the first graveyard where I first came across them. At that time I only knew of three slabs at Hollywood (there were more nearby at Ballymore Eustace, but the term Ballymore Eustace Slabs seemed a mouthful; Hollywood Slabs rolls off the tongue a little easier).

    Anyhow, I thought I knew the old graveyard at Hollywood very well, so you can imagine my surprise when in October last (2011) I spotted out of the corner of my eye what appeared to be a graveslab that I hadn’t seen before. And low and behold, a second appeared moments later. Of course, they didn’t just appear out of thin air – they had been there the whole time. Perhaps they were covered in moss before, but certainly the low October sun light helped to bring out the carvings even more.

    This brings to five the total number of medieval graveslabs slabs now known at the site. As in keeping with the rest of the slabs in this series, the two new examples at Hollywood are of granite and the crosses are incised. Furthermore, both had been reused as upright grave markers. One of the new slabs is actually only part of a much larger slab; the other one is complete and is particularly small. It might be suggested that this example marked the grave of a child rather than an adult, but this is speculative.

    These graveslabs are likely to be medieval in date, and most likely date to the 13th century, and may have continued to be fashionable during the early 14th century. The two newly discovered crosses at Hollywood compare well with the three already known from the site, and imply a more intensive medieval settlement at Hollywood than the archaeology of the area otherwise suggests.

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