Ogham stones are stones on which short marks were made in groups of between one and five notches, strokes or diagonal lines, usually on the edge of the stone. Each group signifies a sound in Old Irish, and they are the oldest surviving written form of the language which is still spoken in this area. The letters/sounds which were carved are based on the Latin alphabet which we still use today. The inscriptions can signify a single name, or a phrase such as ‘X son of Y of the family of Z’, but sometimes a little more detail is added. The inscriptions can date from the end of the 4th up to the early 8th century AD.
The greatest concentration of Ogham stones in Ireland (which is where most of them – about 360 – are located) is to be found here in Corca Dhuibhne, with over 60 known examples. They are found mainly in burial grounds, and are sometimes accompanied by crosses indicating Christian association, but examples can also be found outside of these areas, and inscriptions were also sometimes carved on much earlier (probably Bronze Age or later Neolithic in date) galláin or standing stones. Here the stones may have been boundary or territorial markers, or perhaps memorials, marking where someone died, or fell in battle, or indeed was buried. It is possible that some stones were associated with pilgrimage, or had other functions at which we can only now guess. Some examples were taken in the past from their original locations and re-used in the building of souterrains (underground passages sometimes associated with ringforts), or, more recently, as lintels over doors and windows of vernacular houses.
There are many places where these stones can be seen in Corca Dhuibhne, though using the services of a local guide will ensure that you will easily find them, and find out the stories connected with each.
Several ogham stones are also on display in Músaem Chorca Dhuibhne, Baile an Fheirtéaraigh - Ballyferriter.