A rare image of Cairn L without a roof, from Wood-Martin's Archaeology of Pagan Ireland, around 1895.

 
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The art within Cairn L at Loughcrew

Today Cairn L is locked, and access is difficult for the general public. This is a great shame, as some of the most accomplished neolithic carvings of Loughcrew are found within this fine chamber. The monument was repaired by the Board of Works at some stage in the past, and a concrete roof was added to help preserve the art within the chamber. The rare picture above from Wood-Martin shows the unroofed chamber. When Conwell arrived in 1865 the chamber had collapsed, and the rubble of flagstones would have preserved the art from weathering. At some stage, probably during the 1940's when nearby Cairn H was excavated, a concrete roof was erected over the chamber of L.

Looking out the door of Cairn L. The large panel on the left, a freestanding slab dividing the first two recesses, is covered with diamond and lozenge carvings, and resembles a sheet of calculations.

There are 18 decorated stones within the chamber, including one of the most impressive panels of neolithic art in Ireland. The art of Loughcrew seems older and cruder than the art of the Boyne Valley (excluding Dowth perhaps), and in many cases resemble doodles or measurements. The chamber is divided into seven recess, three to each side and an end recess. The first piece of are we will look at is the dividing slab between the first and second recesses on the right as you enter. This large thin slab is engraved on both sides. The west (inner face) is on the left side of the picture above, the east face is shown below.

The other side of the stone above, a large panel of zig zags and diamonds.

Both sides exhibit plenty of diamonds, which both Brennan and Poynder have suggested represent units of measurement. To me, this slab of rock looks like a sheet of A4 from the jotter of a science student, scribbled all over. Perhaps the astronomer/geomancer/scientist drew in chalk and a student or technician engraved over the lines.

Two carvings at the base of a pillar on the south side of the door. Researcher Martin Brennan has suggested that the rising figure on the right may represent a Venus transit.

Just on the left, as you enter the chamber, is a lovely little design of nested arcs, some 13 in all, radiating out and down from what seems to be a rising heavenly body. 30 cm to the east is another smaller set of nested arcs. Brennan has suggested that this image may represent an image of a transit of Venus, something that really captured peoples imaginations when in happened recently in 2012. In a 1993 art project, plotting the horiscope for the week when 21 comets exploded on Jupiter.

The small diamond shaped flag on the bottom right was found loose in the chamber and may be a corbel from the collapsed roof. The tall thin stone is the edge of the large flag that forms the east side of the large right recess.

The image above shows portions of the second and third recess on the right hand side of the chamber. We are looking at the edge of another tall dividing panel, which has several carvings. The lower portion of the large sloping basin can be seen on the lower left. The pointed stone on the right was found lying loose among the stones within the chamber by Conwell; it is beautifully engraved and may be a fallen corbel. It is currently fastened by a flattened strip of copper pipe, to the stone behind it. The tall, flat slab on the west side of this recess is decorated on the edge (above) and west face, below. I agree with Brennan when he says the symbol below rising out of the east end of the basin must be the sun: every child draws the rising sun the same way.

Researcher Paul Griffin believes these two panels represent an eclipse that took place on November 30th 3340 BC.

The symbols, (above), a tiny circle expanding to a 4 ringed circle, then an empty circle, and a diamond shape (measurement?) seem to me to be a specific message, Venus rising with the sun?. I believe the diamond shape may represent venus, and that all neolithic Irish cycles were powered by the relationship of Venus and the sun..

Close up of the upper right portion of the right recess stone. Six scratched triangles form two lozenge shapes. The topmost of a vertical row of diamonds are to the right.

A panel of art in the second recess or stall to the left within the chamber of Cairn L. A corbel above this recess has three circles engraved along the edge. One of the symbols on the slab is much like the modern astrological symbol for the planet Uranus.


Solar illumination within the right hand recess of the chamber of Cairn L early November 1997. Rich golden light reveals a magnificent panel of carved neolithic art, possibly the representation of an ancient eclipse.