Dingle Peninsula Standing Stones
Stone Alignments and Standing Stones
A stone alignment has been defined as 'three or more standing stones, intervisible and in a straight line'. The term stone row is also used to refer to these monuments. Two major concentrations occur in Ireland, one in Derry, Tyrone and Fermanagh, the 2nd in West Cork and Kerry. The northern alignments frequently occur in close proximity to stone circles and cairns, and are comprised of a large number of low standing stones. The southern group differs in that the alignments are usually found in isolation, and incorporate fewer, no more than 6, but larger stones. The general distribution of the alignments in Cork and Kerry does, however, correspond well with that of the stone circles in the region, and both monument types are generally regarded as belonging to the same cultural traditional, a traditional which also embraces such monuments as boulder dolmens, single and paired standing stones, and cairns.
The coincidence in general of the distribution of these monuments and the distribution of coppe I r deposits in the region has also been remarked upon, and it has been suggested that these deposits may have played an important role in the economy of those people whose spiritual and religious life the monuments represent.
The Dingle peninsula is, however, an exception to this general pattern. There are 3 extant and possibly 2 destroyed alignments, but no stone circles have been identified here, and there is only one possible record of a boulder dolmen, at Ardamore. There is also, as yet, no evidence of prehistoyic copper mining, though a copper deposit has been recorded near Dunquin and a possible mining hammer was found in Cahernanackree in Acres townland near Minard. The dating of stone alignments remains a subject of debate. Nualláin (1975) argues for their erection and use in the Early Bronze Age, whereas Lynch suggests a date range of c. 1400-700 bc, in the later Bronze Age. Their precise purpose is also, as yet, unclear, but a recent study has demonstrated that they are orientated on major events in the solar and lunar cycles. For instance, the summer solstice was the target for the alignment at Cloonsharragh, and that at Ardamore is orientated on the winter solstice. The most numerous of the megalithic monuments on the peninsula (about 95 examples) is the single standing stone or gallaun/gallán as it is more commonly known It is also the simplest monument type encountered in the field being merely a stone set standing upright, with perhaps the adirelandion of packing stones around the base to set it firmly in its socket. The extant examples in the area range in height from .6 to 4.75m, but the vast majority measure between 1 and 3m. It is likely that these stones were erected over a long period of time and for a variety of purposes.
Excavation has revealed that some marked burials of a Bronze Age date and it is generally considered that many belong to the same megalithic traditional as the stone circles and alignments. However, not all excavated examples have provided evidence of a funerary nature, and it has been suggested that some stones were erected to mark boundaries or ancient routeways, some to commemorate important events, and others may have been erected in relatively recent times as scratching posts for animals. In some instances, particularly with the smaller examples, the single stone visible today may be the last remnant of a once more complex feature such as an alignment, field wall or hut site. The majority of the stones on the Dingle Peninsula occur in isolation from other monuments, but there are a few interesting groupings. At Milltown 2 standing stones, a pair of standing stones, and a boulder decorated with a complex array of rock art motifs, all occur in close proximity to one another. At Brackloon, a standing stone is located close to a cup-marked stone, and a possible cist grave has been reported from the same site. At Ardamore, a large stone with cup-and-circle designs stands within 60m of the stone alignment, and what may have been a boulder dolmen once stood beside it. At Ballyhoneen, within a system of pre-bog field walls, 2 standing stones, one with possible cup-marks, occur on the same local rise as a wedge-tomb which bears rock art motifs. At Glanmore, an unclassified megalithic structure occurs in close proximity to the standing stone, and at Coumgagh, a low orthostat is found within 10m of a ring-barrow. Several standing stones, for example Ballintermon and Emlagh, have had ogham inscriptions or simple crosses added at a later period. The 14 pairs of standing stones, usually aligned NE-SW, should perhaps be regarded as abbreviated alignments.
This information was sourced from the Archaeological Survey of the Dingle Peninsula (1986) and provided to dodingle.com 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.
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