1,600-Year-Old Message Discovered in Coventry Garden by Local Teacher

Written by Camilla Jessen

May.10 - 2024 4:30 PM CET

Photo: TheLiftCreativeService / SHutterstock.com
Photo: TheLiftCreativeService / SHutterstock.com
A British geography teacher made an extraordinary find.

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A remarkable archaeological discovery was made in Coventry, England, when geography teacher Graham Senior unearthed a stone inscribed with ancient Ogham script while tending his garden during the 2020 lockdown.

This find has intrigued archaeologists and historians due to its rarity and the potential insights it offers into early medieval Celtic history.

The small rectangular sandstone rock, measuring 11 centimeters in length and weighing 139 grams, bears cryptic inscriptions dating back over 1,600 years.

Photo: The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum on X

Ogham, the earliest form of written script found in Ireland, was predominantly used between the 4th and 9th centuries to write in Archaic and Old Irish. Typically found in Ireland, Wales, and western Britain, Ogham inscriptions are rare in the English Midlands, which makes this find particularly significant.

Teresa Gilmore, the finds liaison officer for the Birmingham Museums Trust, emphasized the unusual nature of this discovery in an interview with RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

"These finds do not turn up in the Midlands. The bulk of Ogham inscriptions are found over in Ireland,” she stated.

Ancient Message

Further analysis by Professor Katherine Forsyth, a Celtic Studies expert at the University of Glasgow, suggests that the stone’s origins could date as far back as the fourth century, possibly extending into the fifth or sixth centuries.

The inscriptions on three of its four sides read “Maldumcail/S/ Lass,” which researchers believe could be a version of the personal name Mael Dumcail. The meanings of 'S' and 'LASS' remain unclear, though they could potentially refer to a location, given the typical use of Ogham stones as territorial markers or memorials.

Photo: The Herbert Art Gallery and Museum on X

From Garden to Gallery

The stone’s presence in Coventry has sparked various theories about how it arrived there, ranging from migration patterns to the existence of early medieval monastic communities in the region.

Graham Senior has generously donated the stone to the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry, where it will be the centerpiece of the upcoming 'Collecting Coventry' exhibition, set to open on May 11.

This exhibit will offer the public a unique glimpse into the rich historical tapestry of the British Isles, highlighted by this extraordinary artifact linking Coventry to ancient Celtic traditions.

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