Exploring Waterford's Ancient Monuments
Enigma In The Comeraghs
Intriguing formations on the mountain slopes
The Comeragh mountains are surrounded by some of the finest archaeology in the country. In the fields and forestry around it, there is a high concentration of just about every known monument, which after much study, we still know very little about.
They are enigmas, giving few clues as to the who or why. Most of these monuments are easily recognizable, whilst others, such as Fulachta Fiadh, can be more difficult to spot. Recently, something even more elusive has been spotted, further up the mountain slopes.
The slopes of the Comeraghs are dotted with patches of scree, some of which cover an extensive area. These patches can form extraordinary shapes, and it is among them that more evidence of human activity can be found.
The origins of this scree has thus far been overlooked by mainstream geology. Much is on relatively level ground, and cannot be regarded as scree in the conventional sense, as there is no obvious source such as outcropping. The majority occurs just below the surrounding ground level, making the removal of surface material one possible cause.
The bizarre shape of some of these patches leads to further speculation as to their origins. Exactly what natural process was responsible for the highly irregular, and vastly differing profiles of the patches? Despite an extensive search, it appears no natural explanation for them in an Irish context has ever been offered.
Be they natural or otherwise, it is among them that the most obvious signs of human activity can be found. Careful observation reveals burrow like recesses, saucer shaped depressions, and delicately balanced or propped stones. In the larger patches these features form an almost terrace like effect, being formed one above the other.
Bowl formation at Carrigbrack
The extent of this 'restructuring', or period in which it took place, is unclear. Much evidence has doubtless been erased by human and animal activity since the practice ceased, so its true extent may never be known. It does, however, occur elsewhere. To date, identical restructuring has been found in the Knockmealdown, Galty, Blackstairs, Slieve Felim and Wicklow Mountains, with it extending over the Irish Sea to the Prescelli Mountains in South West Wales. Reports also exist of similar features in Cornwall and Cumbria.
This evidently widespread practice has to date gone largely unnoticed, but its exposure raises many questions. What motivated this large scale re-arragement of the landscape, and what were its origins?
Answers to some of these questions could throw new light on the culture of our ancestors, and open up a whole new avenue of archaeology.
This article by Mark Chapman - December 2012
Mark is an Independent researcher with a special interest in the archaeology and landscape of the Comeragh Mountains.
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