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Monday, 16 May 2011

The Irish connection

I have speculated before on these strange markings on a smooth slab of rock on Carn Enoch, on Dinas mountain, at the western end of the Carningli upland ridge.  I have sent photos to Cadw and Dyfed Archaeology, but nobody seems to be interested.  Tonight I was watching Fergal Keane's first programme about the history of Ireland, and I was struck by the examples shown of the earliest Ogham script, dating from the period around the breakup of the Roman Empire and the earliest phases of Christian missionary activity.  The key thing in these early scripts is a vertical line with shorter lines or notches created perpendicular to it; later on, as far as I can gather, angled notches were introduced, and messages became increasingly sophisticated.

So is this really something created as a message by an Irish settler in North Pembrokeshire?  Quite possibly.  It is located on a rock slab which would have been contained within a simple shelter -- there is a semi-circular wall (with an entrance on the lee side) which possibly supported a simple domed roof of latticed branches supported by wooden struts and by the back rock slope and the front wall.

We know that there were many Irish tribal groups marauding this area and even settling -- Carn Ffoi, not far away, has an Iron Age fort reputed to have been occupied by "Irish brigands."  There are also legends of St Brynach having confrontations with "an Irish chieftain" and his hungry and violent followers.

Can anybody read the inscription?  At any rate, I now incline to the view that this is not a set of tally marks or some random doodling by a shepherd, but a message inscribed by an Irishman in the period around 300 - 400 AD.

What has this to do with Stonehenge?  Not a lot........


Tony Hinchliffe said...

You have commented recently that Geoff Wainwright may be about to resume his SPACES-type Preseli investigations this summer. He might be interested in also taking a look at the Carn Enoch rock markings. I say that because I have just again come across mention of his excavations at Budbury hillfort, the first known settlement at Bradford on Avon, high above the river, in 1969. He also found evidence for a later Romano-British settlement.

"The flanked bowls, late cooking pot and other sherds acceptably fall into the period late 3rd/ 4th centuries A.D.and with further certain evidence lacking this period is suggested for the Roman occupation of the hillside."

An important Roman villa complex was excavated a few hundred yards from Budbury more recently.

So Geoffrey Wainwright has a working knowledge of this period of archaeological history, as well as the Neolithic/ Bronze Age.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I'm sure Geoff will know about these markings -- Carn Enoch is very close to where he lives! What intrigues me is the thought that these marks are (possibly1) not Romano-British since many of those Ogham stones have both Latin and Ogham inscriptions side by side. The earliest Irish (and Welsh?) inscriptions may owe very little to Roman influence, and may come from a simpler, earlier society on which the Romans had had very little impact. They came to Pembrokeshire, for sure, but they don't seem to have had much effect on tghe organization of society. All speculation, but interesting.....