The earliest form of the written Irish Language is Ogham, a prehistoric script dating back to around the 4th-7th century. This form of writing consisted of a series of notches carved on the corners of large standing perpendicular stones. The stone inscriptions were written vertically from bottom to top. An individual letter could contain between one to five strokes with vowels represented by a pattern of dots.
The stones served as both boundary markers and burial monuments. They provide historian and archaeologists with a knowledge of early medieval Ireland. This system of writing came as a response to the growing popularity of the Roman alphabet through the ancient world. It is suggested that the writing was devised the Irish as a secret communication which would not be understood by potential enemies.
Ogham is sometimes known as the ‘Celtic tree alphabet’ as each letter may be associated with old Irish names for different trees. Ogham stones can be spotted at many historical sites throughout Ireland with the best examples found in the south of the country.
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