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Archaeology in the Ring of Gullion

The Ring of Gullion has a rich history from Megalithic, Iron age and through to the early Christian.


Kilnasaggart Pillar Stone

42497-Kilnasaggart-(2)This tall granite pillar, in the Edenappa townland, marks the site of an early cemetery located on one of Ireland’s five great roads, the Slighe Midhlachra, which ran from near Drogheda in County Louth through the Moyry Pass into west Down and perhaps as far as Dunseverick in north Antrim. Standing more than two metres high, it is believed to be the earliest historically dated inscribed stone in Ireland. A long inscription on the south-east face, between two large crosses, records the dedication of the place by Ternoc, son of Ceran Bic (the little), under the patronage of Peter the Apostle. Ternoc’s death is recorded in the annals at 714 or 716 and the pillar can therefore be dated to about AD 700.

On the north-west face are ten carefully carved crosses nine of them within circles and, low down, a number of parallel linear marks, once interpreted as a possible ogham inscription but actually knife-sharpening score marks. Traditionally, a crock of gold was buried below the pillar and it was overturned by treasure-seekers in the 1830s, but it was soon reset. Excavation in the 1960s to the south of the pillar revealed a number of both stone-built and dug graves, probably dating from the Early Christian period. A map of 1609 shows a ruined church in this area, but there are no visible remains and no trace was found during the excavation.


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