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Welcome to the website for the AHRC/IRC Project OG(H)AM: Harnessing digital technologies to transform understanding of ogham writing, from the 4th century to the 21st.

An ogam stone adjacent to a laptop - the laptop shows a green 3D model of the adjacent stone.
Digital scanning of ogham stone, Lugnagappul, Co. Kerry (c) Nora White.

Poltalloch (S-ARL-002; Canmore ID 39479; National Museum of Scotland X.HPO 470) 

The Poltalloch ogham stone is a fragment broken off a larger original. Its first four letters are clearly cut, with long tapering consonant strokes and the O as short vowel notches, followed by at least two partially damaged letters. There does appear to be evidence for a letter preceding the C, but it looks as though this may have been removed purposefully. The inscription likely reads: CRON[A]N?; Crónán is a Gaelic male personal name meaning ‘reddish-brown’. Unusually for an ogham stone, Poltalloch has travelled abroad, featuring in an exhibition in Vienna in 2003 (Stifter 2003). 

A screenshot of the 3D model of Poltalloch created by OG(H)AM on the
National Museum of Scotland’s Sketchfab. 

The stone fragment was first discovered in 1931 in Kilmartin, Argyll, near the site of Bruach An Druimein, formerly known as Kill y Kiaran or Kilchiarain (church of St Ciarán’). The site had been excavated in 1928, which had revealed four cists aligned roughly east-west and containing inhumations. Upon revisiting the site in 1931, J H Craw found the ogham stone close to where these graves had been excavated, leading him to conclude that ‘there can be little doubt that it has been broken at some recent time from a slab of one of the graves (Craw 1932, 448).’ The area immediately north of the cists was excavated between 1960 and 1962, revealing a multi-period site. Though the main phase of roundhouse settlement was radiocarbon-dated to the first millennium BC, there was evidence of activity from the Late Neolithic period through the medieval period. The early medieval evidence consists of relatively high-status metalworking, items of personal adornment, and a motif piece, many of which have parallels to artefacts found at Dunadd, the major royal site of Dál Riata, less than four miles to the south (Abernethy 2008). Given the presence of a substantial curvilinear ditch, early medieval burials, evidence for literacy through the ogham fragment, and association with an earlier kil- placename, one could suggest that this may have been part of an early monastic site, though a secular site could be just as likely. 

References: 

Abernethy, D. (2008) ‘Bruach An Druimein, Poltalloch, Argyll: excavations directed by the late Eric Cregeen, 1960-2′, Scottish Archaeological Internet Report 27. https://doi.org/10.9750/issn.2056-7421.2008.27 

Craw, J. H. (1932) ‘Two long cairns (one horned) and an Ogham inscription, near Poltalloch, Argyll’, Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol. 66, 1931-2. Page(s): 448-50 

Forsyth, K. (1996) The Ogham Inscriptions of Scotland: An Edited Corpus. PhD, Harvard University. 

Stifter, D. (2003) ‘3.5.42. ‘Ziegelgraffito von Grafenstein; 3.5.43. Fluchtäfelchen von Bregenz; 3.5.44. Ogam-Stein von Poltalloch, Schottland’, in: Der Turmbau zu Babel. Ursprung und Viel­falt von Spra­che und Schrift. Band IIIb: Schrift. Ausstellungskatalog des Kunst­histo­ri­schen Muse­ums. Herausgegeben von Wilfried Seipel, Wien: Kunsthistorisches Muse­um, 258–261. 

The OG(H)AM project seeks to harness digital tools from different fields to transform scholarly and popular understanding of ogham—an ancient script unique to Ireland and Britain. It is jointly funded by the Irish Research Council and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council under the UK–Ireland Collaboration in Digital Humanities Research scheme. The project provides the long-awaited opportunity to complete the corpus of ogham-inscribed Irish stones begun by the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies Ogham in 3D project (2012-15, 2016-17), to extend it beyond stone monuments to cover ogham in all media (including portable objects and manuscripts), and to incorporate the many examples from outside the Republic of Ireland.

The OG(H)AM project runs from 1 August 2021 till 31 July 2024 and is a collaboration between the University of Glasgow, Scotland, and Maynooth University, Ireland. For details about the Project team, see here.

The project’s name is explained here.

This web resource is under construction and will be updated as the project progresses.