Fieldtrip to the rock art at the Isle of Doagh

On August 27, 2013 by admin

This year’s Heritage Week started with our first guided fieldtrip to the rock art at the Isle of Doagh and Straths. There was such great interest to see the often difficult to find locations of the decorated panels with motives and meanings long past our understanding.
The fascination with ancient rock art was reflected in the attendance and over 30 people took part in our tour. We were privileged to have several speakers with a wealth of understanding of archaeology and the different aspects of rock art to help explain the mysteries surrounding these beautiful monuments.

At our first site on Doagh, Adam Rory Porter and Liam MacLochlainn described how Angela MacLochlainn (Adams wife and Liams daughter) and their family rediscovered the forgotten rock art after a clearing of the field by a farm worker last May. Angela had researched the area meticulously and knew this was where the main Rock Art site that was recorded in the early 1980’s was located here. After many trips and failed attempts to see anything through the impenetrable gorse, it was luck and quick action that yielded such rich reward.

Faolain's discovery:"I found this one".

Archaeologist John Hegarty explained that rock art is mainly dated to the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age but that there are many different interpretations of their meaning.. Theories include religious symbols, mapping stars and directions to important sites such as burial places and/or places of  key people and trade.

From Doagh the bus left the isle towards Straths, lying directly across. Both sites are within sight of each other, only separated by water, and are therefore most likely connected. Badhca Ní Dhín described her surprise, as she found out during some research on rock art in Inishowen, that the only person ever to write extensively about it, was no other than her old geology teacher Maarten van Hoek. The Dutch geologist had recorded in detail all the marking he could find and pointed out the significance of such a large cluster of rock art in such small area. His findings were published in the Ulster Journal of Archaeology in the late 1980’s but remained largely in obscurity. Decorated panels overgrew and were forgotten until May of this year, when one field full of them was rediscovered by Angela MacLochlainn, her father Liam MacLochlainn and her husband Adam Rory Porter. And the coincident seems rather striking, that  Badhca Ní Dhín would follow, unwittingly at the time, in the footsteps of her old teacher and discover new and unknown panels, unseen for a very long time.

Frog on the rock art. Only our Terry Tedstone could spot a creature so small.

Group photo by Badhca Ní Dhín

One Response to “Fieldtrip to the rock art at the Isle of Doagh”

  • R-M Cussen

    Hi,
    I am a Masters post-graduate in prehistoric rock-art studies and I have come across your website. While the photographs document some really good, long-lost rock-art, I think we need to be really careful not to over-publicise these kinds of discoveries, at least not without giving due warnings as to how fragile this circa 5,000 year old rock-carving can be. Biological, physical and chemical weathering can start the moment the delicate stone’s surface is exposed to the degrading effects of rain, frost, snow, wind, pollution and also animal droppings. Current research also upholds that turf, lichen and moss should be left in place upon the stone surface as they serve to protect it, and apart from lightly brushing the surface with a soft brush the surface should not be interfered with. Also, only local water should be used to dampen the surface for capturing photos. These are National Monuments and need to be reported if newly re-discovered.
    Thanks,
    R-M Cussen

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