Humans have always mustered up different ways to communicate with and understand each other, as well as leave their mark for generations to come. The earliest example of written language was deciphered in 1916 in Serabit el-Khadim, Egypt. It is believed the lettering here was engraved in 1500BC. The historical inhabitants of the Irish Sea’s shores are no different. An ancient rune-like inscription system, dating back to early-medieval times, still survives in Ireland today. It’s name: Ogham.
The ancient etchings are a mixture of short marks, made in groups of one to five called aicme. The earliest version of ogham represented approximately 80 sounds from Gaelic. Usually, the aicme can be found on the side of tall, thin, pinnacles of standing stone, a couple of metres in height. These have become known as Ogham stones. Corca Dhuibhne (Dingle Peninsula) is saturated with them, acting as home to 60 of the 360 remaining on earth.
What do they mean?
Different Ogham Stones have different meanings. Some are to mark territory, some commemorate someone who has fallen in battle and some act as a gravestone.
Some stones have a plainly Nordic influence, with words like ‘dattur’ (daughter) and ‘krost’ (cross) inscribed. In fact, in Killaloe, Co. Clare, you can visit a particular stone from 1100 dedicated to a Scandinavian settler, Torgrim. Norse and ogham markings have been made and have stood the test of time, still visible today.
It is worth noting that some moved in a decidedly Christian direction. Some bear carved crosses and the Primitive Irish word KOI, which today is believed to be a translation of the Christian Latin burial phrase hic iacit or ‘here lies’.
Can I see them myself?
As stated above, the Dingle Peninsula is saturated with Ogham Stones. However, there are others dotted around the Emerald Isle that you can go and visit:
Here at Mallon Ireland, we have an everlasting appreciation for things that have stood the test of time. That’s why we’ve created our very own Ogham Stone Bronze Sculpture, as a nod to those who have come and gone before us, left their mark and will never, ever be truly forgotten.