THE PREHISTORIC ROCK ART IN COUNTY KERRY, IRELAND? DOES ANYONE CARE? ARCHAEOLOGIST AOIBHEANN LAMBE DOES. WHAT DO OUR PROTECTORS OF HERITAGE SAY? DOES INTERNATIONAL LEGISLATION AFFORD IT PROTECTION?

Posted on June 8, 2019

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Posted on June 4, 2019
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PREHISTORIC ROCK ART IN COUNTY KERRY.
RECENT DISCOVERIES IDENTIFIED AND REPORTED BY ARCHAEOLOGIST AOIBHEANN LAMBE

even at letter west by cbos(1)

Image 1.  Photo of Aoibheann by C. Busher O’Sullivan.

Rock Art is the name given to a monument type which dates back to the Neolithic and consists of enigmatic carvings similar to those found in passage tombs such as Newgrange, typically geometric in form and are most often found on openair earth-fast boulders and rock outcrops.

 

The meaning of the rock art carvings is unknown and a subject of extensive research. Aoibheann, in line with current thinking, believes that a number of factors including views to water, routeways and landscape features played a significant role in the selection of sites for rock art. Accordingly, the setting of these important and nationally rare monuments is of particular significance.

The boulder-strewn landscapes in County Kerry have not been subject to major clearances and consequently this has ensured the extraordinary preservation of the archaeology. There is no doubt that many more monuments remain to be discovered in this landscape – some to be identified simply by field walking, with more archaeology waiting to be discovered under the peat.

triangular stone rock art identified by Lambe

Image 2.  Panel identified and reported by Aoibheann in 2014. 

Aoibheann has been carrying out fieldwork for her research on prehistoric rock art in the townland of Letter West in particular, where she has discovered a large number of hitherto unknown examples. Prior to 2014 there were only about five panels of rock art known in Letter West.

There is also a wealth of rock art in the Derrynablaha/Derreeny area. Large clusters of rock art are also found at Coomasaharn, Kealduff Upper and many other townlands. All of these examples of rock art are afforded protection, either as monuments or proposed monuments under the National Moument Legislation including Liss (KE107-010—-), Derrynablaha (KE082-036001- and KE082-036002-), Kealduff Upper (KE071-008—-), Milltown (KE043-214—-), Kinard (KE053-054—-) and Aghacarrible (KE054-021—-).

the rosetted stone important panel in letter west(1)

Image 3.  The ‘rosetted stone’, identified and reported by Aoibheann in June 2017 .

The townlands of Letter West and Kealduff Upper are of international importance archaeologically. Letter West also has over twenty hut-sites and a network of ancient field systems. This townland, with over sixty examples, has the greatest number of rock art panels of any townland in Ireland which marks it out as an particularly important . Fifty-one rock art panels are on record for Kealduff Upper, the townland adjacent to Letter West and forming part of the same landscape.

Aoibheann has been trying to persuade the developers of works at Letter West to lessen the impact, visual or otherwise on the prehistoric rock art. Her objection to the  planned erection of 3-phase electricity poles seems to have been successful. Nonetheless the newly erected treatment plant is still visible from 1km away on this highly significant archaeological landscape. Well done Aoibheann.

this rock now has a prospect to the water treatment plant

Image 4. Two neighbouring rock art panels (identified and reported by Aoibheann in 2019) with the water works, seen here before recent development work, in the line of sight to the sea of the panels.  

water works before so-called upgrading

Image 5. Water works before the recent development work.

tree of life rock art with old works in the distance

Image 6. The ‘Tree of Life’, a panel identified and reported by Aoibheann in 2017 with the water works before recent development barely visible in the distance.

view from incipient spiral before

Image 7.  The water works, visible from a the nearby panel, identified and reported by Aoibheann in 2014, prior to the recent development work

In 1997, Ireland ratified the European Convention for the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage (revised). Under this convention, known as the Valletta Convention, our obligations include (especially in the context of any development) our giving full consideration to the settings of archaeological sites. Ireland has also ratified the European Landscapes Convention (ELC) which obliges Ireland to implement policy changes and objectives concerning the management, protection and planning of the landscape. For the purposes of the convention, ‘landscape protection’ means actions to conserve and maintain the significant or characteristic features of a landscape, justified by its heritage value derived from its natural configuration and/or from human activity.

water works extend above ridge so visible also from downslope

Image 8. The recently erected shed and tanks in the new development are widely visible in the landscape, even from downhill.

 

 

 

view of water works near the prehistoric rock art in county kerry

IMAGE NUMBER 9. WATER TREATMENT WORKS NEAR PREHISTORIC ROCK ART IN COUNTY KERRY AT THE BEGINNING OF 2020 AD!

water works in january 2020 near prehistoric rock art

IMAGE NUMBER 10. WATER TREATMENT WORKS NEAR PREHISTORIC ROCK ART, IN COUNTY KERRY, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND, JANUARY 2020

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