The 360 stones which show off the earliest writing in Ireland

Ireland is well known for its rich literary tradition stretching back to the early medieval period. Dating from roughly the seventh century (although mainly surviving in later manuscript copies), our earliest texts contain diverse material in both Latin and Irish.

However, there was writing in Ireland in the centuries prior to this. This was not in manuscripts but on stone, and not in the Latin alphabet that we still use today, but in a unique writing system created especially for the sounds of a very early form of the Irish language – ogham (Modern Irish spelling, pronounced [ˈoːm]; in Old Irish spelt ‘ogam’ and pronounced [ˈoɣəm]).

The ogham writing system uses a series of one to five lines and notches (for vowels) relative to a stemline, generally the natural angle or edge of the stone, reading vertically up one side, across the top and down the other. Ogham stones appear to be the Irish version of a wider phenomenon of individual inscribed memorials on large pillar stones probably marking burials of high status individuals.

Read more: RTÉ

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