County Limerick prehistoric carvings are a remarkable discovery 

The carvings exposed by Archaeological Photographer Ken Williams at the Grange stone circle in Lough Gur.

PREHISTORIC carvings have been identified for the first time on a stone circle at one of County Limerick’s most popular visitor attractions.

What has been described by the Office of Public Works as “a remarkable discovery of spectacular concentric circles and arcs” was made on the Grange stone circle at Lough Gur last week.

Leading Irish archaeological photographer Ken Williams, who specialises in photographing ancient stones, said that the recent spell of warm weather may have helped him discover the markings.

He hadn’t noticed them when he visited the site in early 2020 but during his visit last week, he saw that parts of one of the stones in the circle that were previously covered with moss were now exposed.

“It seems like this year the extreme heat has killed off a lot of the moss and revealed these carvings. To the naked eye, they would be very hard to spot until they were pointed out”, he explained.

Sign up for the weekly Limerick Post newsletter

Mr Williams, who is based in Drogheda, has developed methods of lighting stones to photograph them to maximum effect and he has found a number of new carvings over the years in this way. 

Using several modes of lighting, he was able to photograph the previously unseen carvings on the stone.

Describing the discovery as “really significant”, he  said it was rare to find new man-made markings from prehistoric times.

He plans to publish the photographs of the carvings in an academic paper, which will describe the art and discuss comparable examples elsewhere.

The carvings exposed by Archaeological Photographer Ken Williams at the Grange stone circle in Lough Gur.

According to the Office of Public Works, the Lough Gur carvings are “particularly spectacular”, with concentric circles and arcs placed on the back and sides of the fourth stone to the north of the entrance passage, referred to as Stone 9 in the published site plans.

Dr Elizabeth Shee Twohig, who has published extensively on megalithic and rock art, said “the carvings are quite like those at passage tombs in the North and East of the country, such as Knowth and Newgrange, but there is only a single carved stone of this kind in Munster or Connaught.

“It is possible that the stone is contemporary with the banked enclosure henge at around 3000 BC and was incorporated into the circle built inside the enclosure at a slightly later date,” she explained.

Local Fine Gael TD and Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW Patrick O’Donovan, said he was looking forward to visiting the site again soon and seeing the intriguing designs.

He added “I would like to thank Mr. Williams for notifying the Office of Public Works and the Department of Heritage, as this ensures that the discovery can be appropriately recorded.

I would encourage members of the public to contact the OPW and the Department immediately if they find anything unusual, as everyone can play their part to protect our past,” he added.