Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Some Irish rock piles

Reader Diana writes in:
...the rocks are in Ireland in Co Sligo. They are located in the middle of a woods that was planted fro commercial use and were discovered during felling operations. They vary in size and shape as you can see from the attached pictures and some are in very close proximity.They are in a few fields in the corner of a townland just beside an old farmhouse that possibly dates fromt the early 1800's. Its a relatively undisturbed area as the woods makes it quite difficult for walking as does the terrain which is in the middle of a glacial valley so there would have been numerous rock deposits around.
I've no problem with you publishin the pictures. Might even give us some answers. They arent the best quality because the lightin was very poor and with the trees you caould only get individual close ups as opposed to a picture of the whole scene.
I'd be grateful of any suggestions or any similiar structures you've come across and their potential purpose.


pwax said...

Pretty awesome. Someone sure knew how to do dry stone contruction.

pwax said...

Another comment: nothing like that would last long over here in the woods.

Norman said...

Well, the first photo makes me think of the stone piles in Vermont, but I don't buy Fell's theory of a Celtic invasion. As for the other piles, the small size of the trees implies that they were constructed in a once open area. Also, inuksuit-like stone piles are found all along the northern hemisphere, from Russian Lapland to northern Canada, and seeing similar structures in Ireland makes sense.

James Gage said...

The stone structures shown in your photos are known in the U.S. as rock piles or cairns. They are found extensively along the Atlantic coast from the State of Georgia in the U.S. northward into Nova Scotia Canada and westward to Applachain mountains and the Great Lakes. These Irish examples have basic forms which are similar to North American cairns. They also have distinct characteristics which are different, which is to be expected. Vyacheslav Mizin, Russian Geological Society, ( showed me photographs and drawings of stone cairns from the Finish Islands which could easily be mistaken for cairns in the U.S. and Canada. Mizin wrote an informative article for the NEARA Journal in which he proposed the idea of a Northern Hemisphere Cult/Culture of stone structure building. This idea is in its formative stages, but the generally concept is the aboriginal cultures from Northern America, British Isles, northern Europe, and Russia share a common culture connection specifically a tradition of building cairns, pedestal boulder, and other stone structures. Stone structures sites from all of these different regions exhibit similar characterstics like the careful use of quartz stone, the important of crevices or cracks in the bedrock, and incorporation of water sources. These characteristics suggest a commonality of purpose and meaning to these features. In North American research indicates that these sites were sacred landscapes used for a variety of spiritual and ritual practices by Native Americans. These were places were the medicine men (shamans) could contact the Spirits of the earth and sky, made offerings to these spirits, and hold yearly rituals designed to maintain natural world and mankind in harmony. Caves, springs, and cracks in bedrock were all utilized as portals to the spirit world. Quartz was used as protective agent that protected ceremonial structures from uninvited or bad spirits which could disrupt the ceremonies. Water whether rain or spring water was universally important to all cultures around the world. These cultures were well aware of the dangers of droughts and excessive rains to their very survival. So, it is not surprising the importance of water at some of these sites is well documented. Maintaining the annual cycles of the weather working properly was important to these cultures. Getting back to cairns - Cairns in North America were built for a variety of purposes (1) as prayer offerings to the spirits, (2) burials (3) memorials to deceased persons (4) commemorating important "historical" events (5) A physical reminder of a peace treaty between warring factions (6) As trailside shrines, essentially placing stone offerings as a prayer for a safe journey (7) placing a stone offering to call a spirit into a ceremony (8) other spiritual/ritual activities which have yet to be identified.

James Gage

pwax said...

James: about your #8, I would like to propose: rock piles to mark a line of sight. Also what about effigies?

pwax said...

Look carefully at the third picture. Do you see that little pile on the right? In my opinion, it is too delicate to be ancient. That upper rock looks like it would shift in high wind.