Friday, August 04, 2006

Sciuird Archaeological tour

This morning dawned fine and sunny again and I headed out along the coastal walk. I was very glad to discover this walk yesterday evening as you can wend your way along the harbour for ages without any cars nearby. Yeah!!!!! I ate my breakfast as I watched boats out on the harbour with the glorious backdrop of green hills and blue water.
Then mid-morning I embarked on an excellent tour. It was in a minibus on parts of Slea Head, with Michael, who has studied archaeology in Galway. His tour was one of the most informative I have ever been on, plus he was nice with it and readily answered questions that people had.
Our first stop was to see some Ogham standing stones and he explained in some detail the significance of the marks on the stones. We passed the ruins of a tower and heard what it was there for and how it would not have made for pleasant living. We next went to the ruins of a monastery where there was a picture giving an artist's impression of the layout, showing how several buildings were circular. Michael explained that the monasteries were independent of each other and that this one only had a small number of monks in it. It was also probably on a pilgrimage trail to a nearby mountain. The view was superb: it is hard to imagine that people were living an ascetic life in hard conditions when you see it glorious sunshine like we had today.

There were many Celtic swirls on a stone in the ruins and Michael talked to us about how archaeologists have doubted for some time that there was ever a Celtic invasion into Ireland. Instead, it appears that aspects of Celtic civilisation were adopted by the Irish already here. Recent DNA studies into the Irish are backing this idea up, and the Irish share genes with people from the coast bordering the Atlantic eg the Welsh, but there is no evidence of much Celtic genetic input. This could be something interesting to keep watching for information about.

We went to the Gallarus oratory which is still in its original state, with no mortar, and built of dry stone. It has held together as built. The door is apparently like those of 8th century origin, but the window shows a more Romanesque 12 century influence. Michael suggests that the building has continued in use by farmers etc to shelter animals over the years and this is one reason why it has remained preserved.

I was intrigued by the pattern of paddocks on nearby hills and asked about it. Michael told us that there used to be many crops grown in this area, which was largely self-sufficient in agriculture. But since joining the EU, small farmers cannot compete so there are very few crops grown here now. A farmer can earn far more from the land, if it has a good harbour view, by getting planning permission for a dwelling and selling the land.

This afternoon I have been to see the Harry Clarke (Dublin) windows in the old convent here in Dingle. The 12 windows were a commission and are exquisite in their colours and details. Harry Clarke died quite young (and my guide suggested that the acid he used on the windows is now thought to have contributed to his illness), but he has certainly left some beautiful windows behind.

Glorious weather here so I am off out to enjoy more of the harbourside walk where I can forget all about the traffic and the hordes of people in Dingle!

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