Archaeological Sites Around Rylane

The parish of Aghabullogue (as gaeilge Achadh Bolg ~ Field of the cow or field of the caves) occupies an area of 18,733 acres in the barony of Muskerry in Mid Cork. There are three villages in the parish; Aghabullogue, Coachford and Rylane. The land is rich and fertile and is used mainly for agriculture. Before the Great Famine (An Gorta Mor) the population of the parish was 6,001 and over the course of the next ten years this dropped to 3,567. In 1881 this was 1,414 and today the population of the parish remains at around 1,200. Despite the prevalence of agriculture in the region and the reclamation of lands in recent times the people of the area have preserved many archaeological monuments out of superstition and respect. As a result many good examples of stone circles, standing stones, wedge tombs ringforts, ogham stones and fulacht fiadhs can be found in the locality.

Standing stones - typical of those found around the locality The standing stones shown on the left are typical of those found in fields around Rylane. They may have been used to mark burials or have had a commerorative or ritual function. They may even have served as boundary markers or as posts on old roads. Most are thought to date from the Bronze Age.

Ringforts are the most common archaeological monument in Ireland with over 60,000 known sites. They are farmsteads (built in the second half of the first millennium AD), which are enclosed by an earthen bank which acted as protection against predators such as wolves. Ringforts may range from 25 to 50 metres in diameter. A ringfort is found in the locality on the land of Michael Kelleher in Knocknagoun. It stands unprotected in a pasture field and is quite well preserved. It is 20 metres in diameter and about 1 metre in height all round. Ringforts are strongly associated with the fairies in Ireland. Many farmers would not dare knock or interfere with ringforts on their land. Many stories abound about the fairies and ringforts. Rylane man, Tom Scannell, tells of how his brother in law was visiting from Cork city one Christmas. He could not understand the local superstition with the little people and mocked the ringfort suggesting that the owner Michael Kelleher should knock it. However for the remainder of the holiday season he became very ill and soon changed his mind about such superstition.

There are also three fulacht fiadhs located on the land nearby. Fulacht fiadhs are low mounds dating back to the Bronze Age. They were used for cooking when hot stones were used to boil water. The word fulacht means cooking pit while fiadh may mean "of the deer" or have to do with hunters as in the Fianna.

An ariel view of a fulacht fiadh in Mountrivers

A wedge tomb also lies nearby on the land of Con Sullivan. Almost all the megalithic tombs in Cork are wedge tombs dating back to between 3,000 and 1,500 BC. They are communal burial chambers consisting of a long narrow burial gallery with an entrance, which normally faces in a south-westerly direction. The roof is formed of slabs, which are laid on sidewalls, often there is also an outer wall. 59 wedge tombs are found in Cork with 43 of these in the Mid Cork area. They are known by a number of other names such as dolmens, cromlechs, druidical altars and giants graves. They are normally found in upland areas (above an altitude of 700 feet.)

Wedge tomb in Knocknagoun

The wedge tomb on the land of Con Sullivan in Knocknagoun is well preserved. It is located about 1 mile north of Rylane Cross. It consists of a short narrow gallery covered by two overlapping roof slabs. It runs in a NW (entrance) to SE direction. It is 2.6 metres long and around 0.9 metres wide. According to Mr. O' Sullivan an attempt was made about 1900 to knock the tomb but this was abandoned due to an unexplained misfortune which befell those involved in the demolition.

A stone circle is also found in the land of Seán Ahern in Oughtiherra townland of Rylane. They were built for ritualistic or ceremonial purposes. Stone circles may be loosely divided into those with 5 stones and those with a greater number of stones. The stone circles found in the south west of Ireland are unlike those found in the elsewhere in Ireland and Britain. The stone circle in Oughtiherra is aligned in an ENE - WSW direction and has an internal diameter of 2.7 metres. Five stones are present in circle although there were probably seven originally. The stone circle is fairly well preserved although it is unprotected from damage by livestock. See photographs below.

An ogham stone and a holy well are present midway between Mountrivers and the village of Aghabullogue. These are the best known monuments in the locality and the well is still in use as a holy site. The origins of St Olan's (patron saint of the parish) well lie in pre-Christian times. We know that the Irish people worshipped water. The arrival of Christianity saw many of these wells blessed and used by Christians. Pilgrimages (known as rounds) are still made at the well especially on the feast day of Saint Olan on September the 5th . Here prayers are recited and water is used to cure ailments especially those of the eye.. Votive stones are left behind symbolising the leaving behind of pains and illnesses. Nobody interferes with these stones for fear of picking up that ailment. The well is preserved and Stations of the Cross and a Statue of the Blessed Virgin were added in the 1970's. The well itself is a beehive shaped structure with a small opening at the base, a whitethorn grows at the top of the well (see right). The locals maintain the site on a regular basis. A number of stories remain about St. Olan. Click here for some of them.

An ogham stone stands a few feet from the well. Ogham is the oldest form of writing in Ireland, it is based on the Latin alphabet. About 300 ogham inscriptions exist in Ireland mainly in the south-west, they are also found in Wales, Scotland and the Isle of Man. The famous stone corridor in UCC contains many fine examples of ogham stones. The letters are represented by lines or dots, which are marked on the stone. Ogham is read from the bottom up. The stone in Dromatimore in Aghabullogue was originally located in Mountrivers before it was moved to its present site in 1851. The inscription has been decoded as "MADORA MAQI DEGO"or "NO MAQI DEGO". The translation is unclear but it is thought to be in honour of some important chief or warrior of the Clana Deaghda tribe. These were a tribe of knights who lived in Ireland and held their territory in West Munster. The stone is 2.72 metres high and 2.5 metres on the sloped side. It is 0.8 metres wide. It faces east and like the well nearby is maintained in good condition. See picture right.


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