Other Archaeological Features
Besides the imposing tombs and cairns there are many other remains left on the landscape by the ancient peoples that lived in the Wicklow Mountains. These remains give us a valuable insight into their daily lives. Here you will find descriptions of the following remains and some examples of their locations:
- Hunting grounds
- Standing stones
- Fulachta fia
- Rock art
- Bullaun stones
- Charcoal platforms
The Wicklow Mountains would have been good hunting grounds not for the early hunter-gatherers but also to provide additional meat to the later farmers. A stone arrowhead made of quartz was found above the cliffs at Lough Bray Lower. A flint arrowhead was found in this area too.
Standing stones are single upright slabs of stone projecting vertically from the ground. They date back to around 4,000 years when people were first beginning to use metal - the Bronze Age. Standing stones are a common feature of the Irish countryside. They were erected mainly for ceremonial and ritual purposes, but some were related to burial. Later on, they may have been used to mark routeways and boundaries. Standing stones are usually sited in prominent locations near the summits of hills and on the sides of valleys, they can occur on their own or as a part of a larger prehistoric site. Some smaller upright stones can be inscribed with Ogham - an ancient alphabet consisting of dots and strokes cut along the edge of a stone. Ogham stones date from early Christian times.
There is a 0.8 metre high granite standing stone situated in the Glasnamullen area, on the east side of Djouce Mountain. The stone is oriented north to south and sitting on a small platform.
There is a standing stone on Tonelagee Mountain, south of the summit, above the cliffs over Lough Ouler. It is a flat slab of mica schist and about 10 centimetres thick. The stone is set in a rough and uneven socket of small stones. On each face of the slab, there is a roughly shaped Latin cross incised. Each cross is cut to a depth of about 10 mm. This stone has not been associated with any specific church site or graveyard and may be a boundary marker.
Fulachta Fia are ancient cooking places, which usually appear on the landscape as small mounds. They are numerous in Ireland, there are over 5,000 recorded. Fulacht means cooking pit. Fiadh perhaps derives from the Irish word 'fia' meaning deer or from 'fian' meaning wild. Or possibly from ancient Irish tribe the 'Fianna', who are described as having used these sites. They consist of a pit, dug near a stream, lined with wood, stone or clay then filled with water. Meat was cooked in the water, which was heated by hot stones taken from a nearby fire. Used stones were dumped around the pit. These stones grew into the mounds we see today.
One such site is at Ballinabrocky which is situated at the western edge of the Park. It is located at the southeast end of a small valley near a stream which flows into the River Liffey. It appears on the landscape as a crescent shaped mound. The cooking area measures 10 metres by 5 metres.
Rock Art occurs on boulders and rock outcrops. This kind of art has been dated to the Bronze Age, though it has similarities to earlier passage tomb art. The types of markings made on the rocks include cup marks, circles, concentric circles and radial lines. If the art had any special meaning or purpose it is unknown. Some think that the art was related to the presence of mineral deposits or more recent theories relate it to boundaries and routeways.
One example of rock art found in the Park is a mica schist rock with 18 cup marks that was found at the base of Camaderry Mountain. It was found in 1877 near the east end of the Upper Lake. It was later moved to the monastic site.
The word bullaun means bowl or hollow. Bullaun stones are boulders with round or oval bowl-like hollows cut out of the stone. They are often found in association with early ecclesiastical sites. Their association with church sites suggests that they may have been used for religious reasons. The water which gathered in them was believed to have curative properties. They may also have been used for grinding and crushing foodstuffs and dyes. Bullaun stones are found singly or in groups often with multiple hollows. There have been a number of Bullaun stones found in or around the Park, most likely because its proximity to Glendalough monastic site and St. Kevin's pilgrimmage route.
One example of a bullaun stone is at the base of Derrybawn Mountain, beside the Glenealo River, to the South of St. Kevin's Church. Here there is a granite stone with a single conical basin and curved sides. This stone is known as the 'Deer Stone'. The name derives from the story that a deer shed its milk in the basin for St. Kevin to drink.
Charcoal platforms were areas where charcoal was produced on an industrial scale. The platforms where constructed in woodlands by making a small clearing and leveling the slope of the ground. Charcoal was made by slowly burning wood in a large stack that was deprived of oxygen. Charcoal was lighter to transport than wood (which what was primarily used for cooking) and burned at a much higher temperature which made it useful for smelting iron ore. Two and a quarter tons of charcoal was needed to produce one ton of bar iron. Charcoal production was at its height in the 17th and 18th centuries. To ensure a sustainable supply trees were coppiced, i.e. the tree was cut down to the base, in a way that it would grow again from the base. Oak, of which there was plenty in Wicklow at the time, was the preferred wood for charcoal production. There was a high demand for fuel at this time, iron ore smelting was carried out locally and usually took place in the summer months. There are 75 oval shaped charcoal platforms in Glendalough. They are scattered at irregular intervals on the north and south sides of the Upper Lake of Glendalough. Each platform still has a deep layer of charcoal but this is no longer visible. Around Reefert Church, in the Glendalough oakwoods, there are nine platforms ranging in size, seven were most likely used for charcoal burning, two others were perhaps hut platforms.
There is a small area of ironworking activity represented by pits and areas of furnace debris discovered during excavation before the development of the Glendalough Visitor Centre. There were also pottery finds, which were dated to the 13/14th century.
There is no evidence of early mills standing in the Park, however, Glendalough provided the source of granite for making millstones. Clearly visible from the Miners' Road in Glendalough a millstone sits in the marsh at the west end of the lake. This unfinished millstone has a cylindrical, flat-bottomed recess in the centre of the upper face.