Stone Circles

Stone Circles are more often than not associated with the Stone Age but they are in fact Bronze Age monuments. The Bronze Age began about 2000BC in Ireland. Most Stone Circles are small with only five or seven uprights and another large stone positioned flat on the ground outside the circle. Some are very large such as the imposing stone circles at Drombeg, Co. Cork.

However, Drombeg is an exception as it is dated to somewhere between 153 B.C and 127 A.D, the Iron Age. Irish stone circles are mostly more charming than impressive. There is also a certain enigma attached to them even to this very day, as their specific function is unknown. The stone circle in Drombeg certainly seems to have been used as a calendar to ascertain the shortest day of the year. Most are aligned with the setting sun. Astronomy aside, they may simply have been temples, a dedication to the sun god. A number of stone circles marked the site of a burial. While stone circles are a delight to the eye, one must remember that looks can be deceptive. Not only does Drombeg function in telling the time, it also marks a burial as a cremated body was found in the centre of the circle when it was excavated. This suggests that stone circles played a crucial part in the lives of the Bronze Age people as they fused time and death together as one. One has to recognise that these stone circles helped the primitive people to indicate a change and an end in the seasons that was about to occur.

Detail

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There are six stone circles in the Coppeen and surrounding area. This is a rare archaeological occurrence to have six stone circles within a two-mile radius. This may have something to do with the Bride River, which flows through Beal na Blath. The Bride River has a sacred significance as it derived its name from the old pagan goddess – Brigit/Bridget. She symbolised fertility.

In this area, one comes across two types; composed of five stones, or multiple stones (contain seven or more stones). No person knows why some stone circles consist of five stones but it is believed they stand for the five elements: water, air, fire, earth, spirit. They are distinguished by the axis stones, which indicate their Astronomical Orientation. The main axis stone is easy to recognise as it lies on its side and found in the west or southwest side of the stone circle. It is also called the recumbent stone and has a smooth flat surface.

Besides telling the shortest day of the year, it is said that children were sacrificed on the recumbent stone to placate the sun god. One could say that stone circles were religious centres attended by the ancient inhabitants in the surrounding area. They also attracted tribal gatherings to worship their god – the sun. They feared and depended on the sun so much that each tribe elected a high priest to ensure and coax the rising of the sun the next morning, hence children sacrifices.