A Photographer Has Revealed Mysterious Carvings on an Ancient Stone Monument in Ireland Using a Special Technique He Invented

The Grange Stone Circle was likely used for rituals in prehistoric times.

Carvings discovered on the Grange Stone Circle at Lough Gur in Ireland. Photo by Ken Williams; courtesy of the Office of Public Works.

A set of ancient and mysterious carvings have been newly discovered on a megalith at Lough Gur in County Limerick, Ireland. 

The famed Grange Stone Circle is a complete ring made up of 113 stones, built thousands of years ago and possibly used for ancient rituals. The newly found markings on it consist of concentric circles and arcs, located on the fourth stone to the north of the circle’s entrance passage, known as Stone 9.

These carvings were discovered by archaeological photographer Ken Williams in late August. In an interview with RTÉ Radio 1, he explained that they remained a riddle: 

There’s a long speculation on what they might mean… It’s mostly abstract. So it’s not shapes like people would recognize, or items people would see in daily life. It’s all abstract shapes, you’ll often see zig zags and spirals. People have interpreted them as astronomical signs, or depictions of the sun, or perhaps even things that people would see when they were in a trance state or taking hallucinogenics. There’s various theories—but no one is really sure.

Such ancient rock art can be quite subtle and easily overlooked. Williams has developed a special method of lighting stones using remote flashes to better uncover markings on ancient monuments—literally casting fresh light on history.

“For almost twenty years I have been engaged in a photographic project centering on the megalithic monuments of Western Europe, under the working title ‘Shadows and Stone,'” he explains on his website.

Williams told RTÉ Radio 1 that he had visited Grange Stone Circle in 2020, noticing the patterns on Stone 9, but that they had been too covered with moss to be detected at the time. When he returned this year, the moss was gone, perhaps because of heat or people climbing on the stones. As a result, Williams says, he “was able to see there is quite a lot of carving on the back of the stone and both sides, which is quite unusual.”

Archaeologist Dr. Elizabeth Shee Twohig, an expert on rock art, noted in the official announcement of the discovery that the newly found markings resembled the carvings found on passage tombs in the North and East of Ireland, but were less typical of the local region. 

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