Home / Funny / Viral / Ancient Rock With Irish Writings Discovered By Gardner In His Own Yard


Some argue that gardening is therapeutic for the soul, but it can also be just as exciting as travelling back in time. An Englishman called Graham Senior was working in his Coventry garden in May 2020, during the isolated COVID-19 quarantine period, when he came across a rock. Usually, rocks in gardens are more of an annoyance than an attraction, but when Senior dug it up, he discovered strange inscriptions on it.

After washing it, Senior noticed that the stone had been carved with a number of parallel lines. Once the appropriate archaeological authorities in the UK were notified, specialists recognised his little stone as an exceptional specimen of ogham, an early medieval Irish writing system.

Senior said, "I was clearing an overgrown area of the garden when I noticed it." I initially believed it to be a calendar of some sort. It was amazing to learn later that it was an ogham stone that was more than 1,600 years old.

The stone measures only 11 centimetres (4.3 inches) in length and 1.5 inches (3.8 centimetres) in width. Its ogham markings were probably made in the very early medieval era, between 400 and 500 CE. Additionally, this was the beginning of this writing system. Ogham, also known as the Celtic tree alphabet, represents the original Irish language writing system.

History Today stated the following, “The original form of ogham represented approximately 80 sounds from Gaelic, with 20 symbols arranged in four groups of five. Each group, or aicme, was made up of single strokes, easily carved in wood or stone, with each letter represented by one, two, three, four, or five strokes and grouped in sequences of one to five located to the left, right, diagonally across or in the middle of a central stem-line (one stroke to the right is a ‘b’, two strokes is ‘l’, three strokes ‘v/f’, and so on).”

Since vellum, the common writing material of later medieval times was largely unavailable, ogham marks were carved into stone. Sticks and other materials lost to time, however, were probably also used. Later, Latin letters were added, and writing adopted this new script. However, ogham inscriptions continued to be found through the ninth century and are still found today at archaeological sites. Many of the examples that are still in use are names. There are examples found in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and the Isle of Man.

That makes the recent discovery in central England unique. The name and residence address of a person is thought to be inscribed on the stone. But why it was made and brought to Coventry remains a mystery. It might have been brought to the landlocked county of Coventry by an Irish traveller who crossed the River Stowe. The traveller might have been visiting a monastery on a pilgrimage.

The local archaeologist Teresa Gilmore speculates the following, 
“The beauty of the Portable Antiquities Scheme [which registers UK finds] is that people are finding stuff that keeps rewriting our history. This particular find has given us a new insight into early medieval activity in Coventry, which we still need to make sense of. Each find like this helps in filling in our jigsaw puzzle and gives us a bit more information.” 

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