Stone with ancient writing system unearthed in garden

119 points by gadders on 2024-05-14 | 22 comments

Automated Summary

A small stone with an early form of Celtic script, known as Ogham, has been discovered in a garden in Coventry. The stone, dating back possibly to the 4th Century, has lines inscribed on three of its sides. It is an unusual find for the Midlands and thought to be carved between the 4th and 6th Century AD. The stone was partially translated revealing a name: Mael Dumcail. Its origin and purpose are still unclear, theories suggest it could have been a keepsake or used by Irish tradesmen. The stone is due to go on display at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry. The discovery provides an insight into the Irish language before the use of the Latin insular script.

Other submissions


willvarfar on 2024-05-14

One of my favourite Time Team episodes ever was when they found an Ogham carving on a stone when digging up a golf course on the Isle of Man.

The whole episode is a corker!

LeoPanthera on 2024-05-15

If you watch this episode, bear in mind that Ogham was badly mistranslated. (And even when they're giving the mistranslation, they point at the wrong words.)

A followup can be read here:

cheese_van on 2024-05-14

Thanks very much for this recommendation!

Isamu on 2024-05-14

Related, there’s a Unicode block for Ogham.

SoftTalker on 2024-05-15

> Ogham was highly unusual among world writing systems, consisting solely of parallel lines in groups of one to five.

I guess that makes it easier to carve into stone (or wood, for less durable writing).

ccppurcell on 2024-05-15

Tom Scott has a nice video on Ogham:

andylynch on 2024-05-15

This is a great find- Ogham’s been in the news a bit this week, mostly thanks to Eurovision (!)

genman on 2024-05-14

It surprisingly similar to Morse code.

tiffanyh on 2024-05-15

How so?

(Genuinely curious)

genman on 2024-05-15

In Morse more frequent characters are represented by shorter codes. You can also see here that A is only one dash.

foobar1962 on 2024-05-15

.-. - ..-. --

baerrie on 2024-05-15

Tldr; it is probably a grave marker for someone named Mael Dumcail written in Ogham

bqmjjx0kac on 2024-05-15

Not a bad guess, but I didn't spot that in the article.

baerrie on 2024-05-15

The name was mentioned in an image description. Most of these are grave markers, the small size is strange but probably superfluous.

bananenpubs on 2024-05-14


ryanmerket on 2024-05-14

It's binary.

ryanmerket on 2024-05-16

It's joke, lay off the downvotes. Yeesh

RecycledEle on 2024-05-15

I wonder how many "ancient" stones are the result of bored kids, 20 years before someone else digs up the stone.

jaco6 on 2024-05-14

My uninformed suspicion is that this is not a language or a script but a timekeeping or calendar system of some kind.

LeoPanthera on 2024-05-15

You are correct, in that your suspicion is uninformed.

Ogham is an Early Medieval alphabet used primarily to write the early Irish language, and later the Old Irish language.

I don't know why you would feel the need to publicly cast aspersions on actual experts.

4ndrewl on 2024-05-15

"I don't know why you would feel the need to publicly cast aspersions on actual experts"

You new here? /s

karolist on 2024-05-15

But but you're doing the fallacy of argumentum ad verecundiam! /s

ljsprague on 2024-05-14

The article says it's this:

>The vast majority of the inscriptions consist of personal names.