Ogham Stones Back in the News - Survey Underway in Ireland

Ogham Stone Obelisk in Kerry
Ogham Stone Obelisk in Kerry

Ogham is Ireland's famous ancient writing system which has been found as far back as the 4th century BC, carved on ancient tablets and trees throughout Ireland and on manuscripts dating back to the 9th century.

The ancient and mystical language is formed using lines and notches and there are hundreds of beautiful Ogham stones dotted around the country. Ogham is now often seen in jewelry, including the collections at Rings from Ireland where messages can be personalised and written in Ogham which look stunning as a design feature. They work beautifully whether in bracelets, necklaces, pendants or bangles.

Now Ogham is firmly back in the news with the announcement that Irish and Scottish academics have made the decision to preserve this ancient Celtic writing system. They've turned to digital and 3D technologies to find out more and to preserve what is already there so that its value is not lost.

The language is thought to be the precurser to modern Irish gaelic and Scottish gaelic. 

The big challenge in Ireland is that many of these very precious and historic Ogham stones - while in very picturesque and important historical settings like monasteries and churches - are now vulnerable. They are at the mercy of harsh weather conditions, and they are being worn away and eroded from constant exposure to the elements. 

It's estimated that just 16% of Ogham carved stone pillars are housed in Ireland's national museums - while the majority of Ogham stones remain in local churches, heritage centres or remote rural locations. This has made it more difficult for researchers to study them. They've had to rely on a small subset of Ogham stones, as it has been challenging to travel to the widely dispersed and sometimes very isolated locations.

Now academics from Maynooth University, Ireland working with the University of Glasgow are planning to create a digital database. They've chosen 640 Ogham scripts across Ireland and the UK that date back to pre 1850 and will be doing this across the next three years.

This new resource will be invaluable, as it will create a huge and fascinating database of 3D models of Ogham inscriptions. These will then be accessible to members of the public, teachers, students and academics. 

Climate change has been another challenge and having the 3D database will ensure that this great archaeological resource is protected. Ogham has never lost its popularity despite modern ways of writing, and it is often seen in design and art. 

Professor of Old Irish at Maynooth University, David Stifter, says:  "We hope to get a better understanding of the meaning of Ogham as a cultural representation of Gaelic intellectual history".
Posted on November 22, 2022