La Tène Stones

La Tene Turoe Stone

The La Tène Culture originated in the Mid fifth Century B.C. with interactions between Greco & Etruscan civilizations with the Celts in Europe.  This continued until the Fourth Century as the Culture passed through various places or regional variants.  It ended in the Mid First Century when the Roman Empire from the South plus the Germans from The North exerted pressure on the Celts. (Adam Agustyn) [i]

There are three monuments in Ireland known as La Tène Stones.  They are situated in Counties Cavan. Galway plus Roscommon.  Named after the area in Switzerland in which the artistic boulders & artefacts were discovered when water levels dropped during 1857.  They have been referred to as ‘Cult Stones.’   Kenneth Hurlstone Jackstone observed that the La Tène style influenced the illuminations within the early – Christian Manuscripts ie the ‘Book of Kells.’  They featured the same trumpet pattern designs in several of their colourful pages.  Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson penned that ‘The (La Tène) motif must have passed in Ireland from pre – Christian to Christian art at a single leap in its full vigour…if so, it is surly also not surprising that some of the literary tradition belonging to the Iron Age in Ireland should have lasted long enough to be adopted into the written literature of this very same early Christian period.’  The publication ‘The Pagan Religion of the British Isles: Their Nature & Legacy’ by Ronald Hutton states that ‘To the prehistorian, these stones are a classic case of a piece of jigsaw with no getting into which it can confidently be fitted.’ [ii]

A European Iron Age Culture developed from 450 BCE to the Roman Conquest of the first Century during Century BCE.  Barry Cunniffe noted that localization of La Tène during the fifth Century when two zones of power & Innovation: a Marne – Mozelle zone in the West traded with Po Valley via the Central Alpine Passes & the Golasecca culture & a Bohemian zone in the East with separate links to the Adriatic via the Eastern routes & the Venetic culture. (Cunniffe 1977 p 66.)  From their homeland the La Tène Culture expanded in the fourth Century BCE to Western Europe.  It was later when they reached Britain & Ireland.  There were local differences in style also characteristics of curving ‘swirly’ decorations.  The early style of La Tène Culture featured static, geometric decoration, while the transition to the developed style constituted a shift to movement-based form such as triskels. [iii]

The Granite Boulder known as the Castlestrange Stone displays the characteristic curvilinear ornamentation of Celtic flourishes that were called La Tène. This dates from the Iron Age Period 400 B.C. – 100 C.E.  It was 1904 before reports of this discovery was published: ‘There are no remains near it with which it can be associated…No traditions are attached to it.  I could learn nothing about it, save that it had been present as long as the oldest people remembered.’  This Castlestrange Stone is all that remains of the Castlestrange Estate, dated from 1930’s that included a three – story Country House with a Coach House, a Gate House plus Stables in Athleague, Co. Roscommon.  This Stone is 60 metres in height.  It is 90 cm in length.  The designs are incised rather than carved in relief.  (One may view the virtual – reality rotating image at the top of this page.) [iv]

The other two La Tène Stones in Ireland display the same Continental Style.  The Turoe Stone in Co. Galway is known for the beauty of its design that is carved in relief.  It was protected within a shed during the years of 2011 (?).  There were objections from local residents when the proposal to remove it from Co. Galway. The second Stone was the Killycluggin Stone which was broken during the years.  The pieces are now displayed in Cavan County Museum. [v]

In Castlestrange Demesne the beautiful, inscribed cut Stone that is dated from 200 B. C. may be located.  It is decorated with curvilinear ornamentation in the Celtic La Tène style.  This website has a map of the area. [vi]

The Turoe Stone a National Monument (No 327) granite sculpture in a La Tène style.  It is located in the Village of Bullaun in Co. Galway 6k North of Loughrea off the R350.  It possibly dated to 100 B.C. – 100 AD.  It was moved from its original site 3 k from Bullaun during the late nineteenth Century.  The Turoe Stone is now positioned in a covered structure in the front of Turoe House.  It is set in a concrete base.  The top of the Stone is covered with a continuous abstract curvilinear La Tène design.  According to Georg Coffey 1904 in his paper to the Royal Irish Academy in 1840 he mentioned re the move from the Feerwore site.  During 2007 it was proposed to move the Stone, it was deferred due to local opposition. [vii]

The Killycluggin Stone was discovered broken in Co. Cavan.  It is a rough Cone – Shaped sculpture. believed to have been from the Bronze Age.  Speculation suggested that Killycluggin Stone was a representation of the cult image of the pre – Christian God ‘Crom Cruach.’  François Henry stated in her ‘Irish Art in the Early Christian Period’ page 11 that ‘the ornaments engraved on the stone of the sides seems to be the edge of a garment.’  There is an imperfect replica constructed about three hundred metres from the original site beside the main road. [viii]


This site has a list of La Tène Sites:

The following publications refer to topic:

‘The Pagan Religion of the British Isles: Their Nature & Legacy’ Ronald Hutton 1991 B. Blackwell Oxford pages 159 /60

‘Some Monuments of the Tène Period Recently Discovered in Ireland’ Caffrey George. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy Section C. Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics, Literature, 24 1902 – 1904’ pages 262 /63

‘The Oldest Irish Tradition: A Window on the Iron Age’ Jackson Kenneth Hurlstone 1964 Cambridge University Press [ix]

‘Fragments of Killycluggin Stone’ Ó ‘Riordaín Seán P. 1952 Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquarians of Ireland 82(1): 68

Excavations at Killycluggin Co. Cavan’ Ulster Journal of Archaeology Third Series 41 49 – 54

Early Ireland. An Introduction ton Irish Prehistory’ O ‘Kelly Michael J.  O ‘Kelly Claire 1989 Cambridge University Press. P 288

‘Site No 93, Killycluggin Townland’ Archaeological Inventory of Co. Cavan p 19

Irish Art in the Early Christian Period’ François Henry p11 [x]

This site has a list of publications that refer to La Tène Art & Celtic Era:


[i] La Tène ( [assessed 27th September 2020]

[ii] Castlestrange ( [assessed 27th September 2020]

[iii] La Tène Culture ( [assessed 27th September 2020]

[iv] Castlestrange ( [assessed 27th September 2020]

[v] Castlestrange ( [assessed 27th September 2020]

[vi] Castlestrange Stone ( [assessed 27th September 2020]

[vii] Turoe Stone ( [assessed 27th September 2020]

[viii] Killycluggin Stone ( [assessed 27th September 2020]

[ix] La Tène ( [assessed 27th September 2020]

[x] Killycluggin Stone ( [assessed 27th September 2020]


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