Friday, February 27, 2009, 12:35
Knowth graffiti artists leave writing on the wall
Excavations that began at Knowth in 1962 have uncovered 18 satellite tombs
around the great mound. A new book on the ancient megalithic site reveals
graffiti was a problem over a thousand years ago.
Knowth and its Hinterland , the fourth in a series of volumes on Knowth
and the wider Brú na Bóinne site, traces the history of settlement and
society in the area from the emergence of political power in the 10th
century up to the modern era.
Excavations that began at Knowth in 1962 under the direction of Professor
George Eogan have uncovered 18 satellite tombs around the great mound.
Over 200 stones bearing megalithic inscriptions were found.
The latest research details the discovery of a mixture of ogham
scratchings and doodles in early Christian script on stones that line some
of the underground passages and chambers.
One of the book's authors, Francis John Byrne, professor emeritus of early
Irish history at University College Dublin, said the marks were obviously
"vandalism or graffiti".
It is believed they date from between 700 and 750AD when Knowth underwent
a refurbishment and became the royal residence for the Brega kingdom. A
number of the smaller satellite tombs around the main mound were destroyed
at this time, leaving them open to attack by vandals.
Professor Byrne has described the inscriptions, which contain about 20
names, as "rather artistic". It is not known if the graffiti was the work
of a single culprit or if there were several involved. He said they were
obviously written by a literate scribe or scribes, who were Irish and not
Most were written the type of long, angular script found in the type in
the Book of Armagh, while some were in written in the more rounded
characters found in the Book of Kells, he said.
Minister for the Environment John Gormley, who launched the book last
night, said the discovery of graffiti proves "some things never seem to
Knowth is part of the megalithic Brú na Bóinne complex that also includes
Dowth and Newgrange. The area is a Unesco World Heritage site.
Historical Knowth and its Hinterland is edited by FJ Byrne, William
Jenkins, Gillian Kenny and Catherine Swift, with an introduction by
Professor George Eogan. It is published by the Royal Irish Academy in
association with the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local
BTW, the plundering of the megalithic tombs is mentioned in the Annals of
Ulster, but only for the century afterwards:
863.4 Uamh Achaidh Alddai + Cnodhbai + uam Feirt Boadan os Dubadh + uam
Mna Angobann [= Óengobann] ro scruidiset Gaill, quod antea non perfectum
est, .i. a fecht ro slatsat .iii. righ Gall feronn Flaind m. Conaing, .i.
Amhlaim + Ímhar + Auisle; + Lorcan m. Cathail leo occa, rí Mide.