The Modern Antiquarian. Stone Circles, Ancient Sites, Neolithic Monuments, Ancient Monuments, Prehistoric Sites, Megalithic MysteriesThe Modern Antiquarian


Passage Grave


[The Daff Stone] is the name popularly given to a large stone which lies on a low mound of earth in a field close to the Moneydig cross-roads. It is roughly diamond-shaped, the longer diagonal reaching 7 feet, and the shorter about 4 feet. The average thickness is from 1 foot 9 inches to 2 feet.

[...] Recently, Mr. S. K. Kircker and myself, happened to be driving past the place. Noticing the stone, we stopped to have a closer look at it. To our astonishment we discovered that it was the cover-stone of a sepulchral chamber. Clearing away some dead thorn-bushes which were about, we found that the stone did not quite cover the chamber at one particular spot. We were afterwards told that the bushes were designed to prevent some young lambs, which were in the field, from falling through the opening thus formed.*

Making his way, with much difficulty, into the chamber by this "open door," Mr. Kircker, after taking some measurements, made a further discovery. He reported that one of the upright stones forming the chamber had some curious markings or scribings upon it.

I immediately secured some paper from a neighbouring shop, and he made me a rubbing, which, though not very satisfactory, showed at least that the stone was rudely decorated. [...]

The word "Daff" means in Irish 'a vat or tub'; and certainly the appearance which the chamber presents to anyone looking in justifies the name. Seven large stones form the staves of the 'cask', if I may so call it, and the cover-stone furnishes the lid.

[...] The stone marked X on the plan is the one which carries the scribings. They occur at about one-third of the height from the bottom as exposed, and cover a space 1 foot 7 inches broad by 1 foot high. On an average they are one-tenth of an inch in width. They are made up of five figures; the largest is a spear-shaped one, and runs almost across the entire space occupied. It also occurs below the other four.

The edges of the blade are formed by a series of scorings, at least five or six on the upper edge, and ten or twelve on the under one. The ends are open, and seem to curl outward - one of them certainly does. The space between these ends is filled with a smaller triangular figure, shaped like an arrow-head, with longish wings and no stem. A similar figure, but longer and sharper, occupies the top corner to the right.

The left-hand corner opposite this is taken up with a circular ornament, 5 1/2 inches in diameter. The circle is incomplete, or penannular, three inches or so of an are being wanting [sic]. There is no cup at the centre, but there are some five straight lines running downwards from the centre to the circumference, two of which are very distinct.

Though the rubbing shows only one circle, or rather partial circle, there are what seem to me faint traces of other concentric circles within this. Mr. Kircker is inclined to think that originally it was a spiral - and it may have been so; but the surface of the stone is so rough, and the scribings so faint, that it is impossible to make anything more out of the figure than what appears on the rubbing.

Between this circular figure and the point of the large spear-like one underneath the others is a fourth 'broad arrow.' Its point is in the opposite direction to that of the 'spear' and also of that which is within the open ends. In both these instances the direction of the point is determined by the shape of the space to be filled with the ornamentation.

I may add, before I leave this, that on the large stone directly opposite to the one bearing the decoration - the largest one, indeed, of all the uprights - there are a few lines scored, but there is no approach to a pattern [...]
From George R Buick's article in the 1904 Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.

I love the way there's a sense of excitement as they explore the stones. And this* made me smile, I bet they found this out when the farmer came over to see what the hell they were up to, and told them off for removing the branches he'd deliberately put there.

It seems to me that there must be some quite complicated designs on the stones. And this would be very cool to see. But when I tried to find out about them on the internet, I drew a blank. The NISMR page is pretty sparse. The additional details link suggests the Official Visit in 1997 didn't notice any carvings at all. But George and his mate Mr Kircker didn't imagine them, surely? They took some rubbings of them - twice, because the first set went astray. You couldn't imagine them twice.

I know what I'd do if I lived nearby, I'd be over there with a torch and a camera.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
10th February 2017ce
Edited 10th February 2017ce

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