This heavily illustrated lecture recounts the results of surveys carried out to record the gravestones at two sites in the west of Ireland – the graveyards at Killora and Killogillen, near Craughwell, Co. Galway. Rather than dwelling on individual gravestones, Chapple uses the combined body of evidence to first examine certain quantifiable elements of gravestone wording and decoration. This approach allows us to see when, for example, the IHS symbol or the Omega emerged as part of the local decorative repertoire, how their representations evolved, and how they changed in popularity over time. Moving beyond this, the lecture seeks to demonstrate how this seemingly simple dataset can reveal deeper understandings about the people who lived and died in this area from how they chose to commemorate their dead. For example, we can draw out some understanding around the sexual and family politics of commemoration as well as how families understood their own structures – all from how they chose to memorialise their dead. There are numerous asides and speculations about the relationship between hearts and dragons, the height and shape of the wall around heaven, and even why peacocks are considered to be symbols of immortality. The presentation ends with a call to action in that the techniques used here are applicable to your local graveyards and burying grounds and that the data gleaned from simple surveys can be analysed to provide much deeper understandings of people in the past.
Lecture delivered to the Algarve Archaeological Association on Tuesday March 3rd 2020