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Within the chamber of Cairn L. Photo © Padraig Conway.

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 one of the most accomplished neolithic carvings of Loughcrew is found within this impressive chamber.

When Eugene Conwell arrived in 1865 the roof had collapsed, and the rubble of flagstones and corbels would have preserved the art from weathering. A rare early photograph published by Wood-Martin in his Rude Stone Monuments shows the unroofed chamber.

The monument was repaired by the Board of Works at some stage, probably in the 1880's, and a concrete roof was added to help preserve the art within the chamber. Valuable photographs by Robert Welch and William Green document the freshly repaired monument at the end of the Victorian era.

View from within Cairn 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 stalls or recess, three to each side and an end recess. The first piece of art one meets 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.

Carvings within Cairn L.
The other side of the stone above, a large panel of zig zags and diamonds.
Photo © Padraig Conway.

Both sides of this slab exhibit panels of diamonds or lozanges, which both Martin Brennan and Michael Poynder have suggested may represent units of measurement.

Sunbeam illuminates megalthic art in Cairn L.
Solar illumination within the right hand recess of the chamber of Cairn L early November 1997.

Astronomical Symbols

American researcher Martin Brennan, who studied the art and astronomy at Loughcrew, published his findings in his ground-breaking book The Stars and The Stones. Brennan discovered that the sun, the moon, and the planet Venus illuminated the chamber at various points in their cycles.

Carvings within the passageway.
Two carvings at the base of a pillar on the south side of the entrance.

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. Close by is another smaller set of nested arcs. Martin Brennan has suggested that this image may represent an image of a transit of Venus.

Carved corbel in Cairn L.
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 image above shows portions of the second and third recess on the right-hand side of the chamber. The tall stone is the edge of another dividing slab, which has several carvings. The lower portion of the large sloping basin can be seen to the left.

Cairn L in 1865.
Cairn L in 1865, a rare early image published by W. G. Wood-Martin.

Ancient Eclipses

A pointed stone 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 both the edge and the west face. Martin Brennan believes the symbol rising out of the east end of the basin must be the sun: every child draws the rising sun the same way.

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

The symbols, a tiny circle expanding to a 4 ringed circle, then an empty circle, and a diamond shape ( measurement ) seem to bear a specific message or meaning, Venus rising with the sun? The diamond shape may represent Venus, and perhaps 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.
Left Recess.
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 carved on the slab looks very much like the modern astrological symbol for the planet Uranus.

The Whispering Stone in Cairn L.
The Whispering Stone in Cairn L.