Emerald Isle

Rock Art

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore, Irish fairy tales and More Irish Tales and Legends

Rock Art of Ireland

Rock art is what we call the amazing variety of engravings on rocks, boulders and megalithic monuments throughout Ireland. It most often dates from the Neolthic or even earlier, and can be in the form of spirals, swirling lines, geometric forms, circles, sunbursts, arcs, dots, and many other abstract designs. It is closely associated with the great Neolithic civilisation that once ruled this land, as well as much of what is today the UK, France and Spain along their western Atlantic coastlines.

We do not know the purpose and reason for this art or what message its authors were trying to convey. Some have speculated that it is associated with astronomical events, with religious or magical ceremonies, it is commemorations of the reigns of great rulers, that it is an instruction manual or historical record of some kind, or that it marks boundaries, routeways and the borders of ancient lands, now long-forgotten.

Whatever the reality, it remains a source of wonder and fascination for all, and more of it is being discovered and uncovered even today. The earliest forms of rock art date back six thousand years ago, and can be found in Sligo, one of the first places Neolithic farmers put down roots. By far the most famous galleries of ancient Irish rock art are at Newgrange and nearby monuments, featuring a dazzling array of beautiful designs which evoke a sense of mystery.

Should you happen upon some rock art, the Heritage Council has released a rock art code:

Many of these panels are obscured by vegetation and moss and lichen growth. Removal of biological growth can cause greater damage to the rock surface, so:

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Archaeological information is licensed for re-use under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International licence from the National Monuments Service - Archaeological Survey of Ireland.

Note that this license DOES NOT EXTEND to folkloric, mythological and related information on the site. That data remains under full private copyright protection