Early 19th century gravestone with various symbols

An archaeologist amongst the gravestones

The Algarve Archaeological Association (AAA) will be presenting a lecture on Tuesday, March 3 entitled “An archaeologist amongst the gravestones: reading two Irish graveyards” by archaeologist Robert Chapple. The two lectures, in English, will be at 2.30pm at the Museu do Traje in São Bras, and at 6pm at the Convento de São José in Lagoa.

The study of gravestones can provide a wealth of information not only about the people to whom they relate, but also about the different styles and symbols used.

In this lecture, Robert Chapple will recount the results of surveys carried out to record the gravestones at two sites in the west of Ireland, the graveyards at Killora and Killogen, near Craughwell, Co. Galway. Rather than dwelling on individual gravestones, Chapple uses the combined body of evidence to 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.

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. There will also be 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 will end with a call to action in that the techniques used here are applicable to your local graveyards and burial grounds and that the data gleaned from simple surveys can be analysed to provide much deeper understandings of people in the past.

Robert M. Chapple grew up in the west of Ireland and received a BA (1991) and MA (1998) in archaeology from University College, Galway/National University of Ireland. Since 1997, he has been based in Belfast, in Northern Ireland. He is a former member of both the Historic Monuments Council and The Joint Committee for Industrial Heritage. After more than 20 years in commercial field archaeology, he left the profession in 2010 and now works in IT, describing himself as a ‘Recovering Archaeologist’.

He still maintains a presence in the profession through his writing, blogging and advocacy activities, along with personal research including the Irish Radiocarbon Determinations and Dendrochronological Dates (IR&DD) project. He has some interesting articles which you can read on his blog at https://rmchapple.blogspot.com/

Non-members are welcome to attend AAA lectures for a €5 admission fee, with all money raised by the AAA being used for archaeological grants and speakers.

For more information, email algarvearchass@gmail.com, visit arquealgarve.weebly.com or Facebook ‘Algarve Archaeological Association’. Please check the website or Facebook page for any last-minute changes.

15th century window in Killora church
18th century gravestone for Mary Fahy
18th century gravestone for Patrick Ford with IHS symbol
Early 19th century gravestone with various symbols