Travel & Tourist Guide to The Dingle Peninsula (Corca Dhuibhne) - Ireland


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Dingle Peninsula Rock Art

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Rock Art

Although the practice of carving designs on stone is common to many periods and cultures, the term Rock Art is, in Ireland, generally applied to a specific group of carvings with a limited range of dominant motifs. The most frequent are circular depressions known as cup-marks, and cup-marks enclosed by one or more concentric circles often with a radial line running across or through gaps in the circles. Individual stones may bear variations of these basic designs as well as other less common motifs. The decoration was picked out using a sharply-pointed implement, and experiments have shown that this can best be done with a hard stone chisel or point hammered with a wooden mallet. Examples are found in various parts of Ireland, but the greatest concentrations are in West Cork and Kerry.

On the Dingle Peninsula, over 40 known stones are decorated in this manner. Most of the markings occur on natural rock outcrops and boulders and are not obviously associated with other monument types. There are, however, a small number of exceptions. At Ballyhoneen and Maumnahaltora, rock art motifs occur on the structural stones of wedge-tombs; a standing stone, located close to the stone alignment at Ardamore, bears several cup-and-circles and cup-marks; at Kilmore and Gowlaneard , cup-and-circle. marked stones are found within the bounds of pre-bog field systems; and at Brackloon, Ballyglasheen and Aghacarrible, burials have been discovered in the near vicinity. Possible cup-marks also occur on some standing stones; natural hollows and markings can be confused with rock art designs especially when the markings are weathered or damaged. Outside Ireland the closest parallels for this style of art are found in Scotland, but similar decoration is known from Northern England, Galicia and Northern Portugal, and the term Galician Art or Gallego-Atlantic art is often applied to the group because of its distribution along the Atlantic seaboard.

A late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age date seems likely, and as cup-marks and cup-and-circles are also known from Irish passage-tombs, it is possible that these provided the source of inspiration for the later rock art. The meaning and purpose of the markings remains enigmatic. That they are purely decorative seems unlikely, and it has variously been suggested that they were astronomical marks, maps of settlements and field systems, copper-workers' marks, or symbols associated with a cult of sun-worship.

This above information was sourced from the Archaeological Survey of the Dingle Peninsula (1986) and provided to courtesy of Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne. Republication of the extract or any part therin, in any form or capacity, is strictly prohibited without the express permission of the publishers. © Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne 1986-2010.

Archaeological survey of the Dingle Peninsula
Copies of the Survey are available in the bookshop of Músaem Chorca Dhuibhne,
Ballyferriter, tel. 066-9156333 (

from Oidhreacht Chorca Dhuibhne, tel. 066-9156100
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Dingle Peninsula Ireland Holiday & Accommodation Guide
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