Cells 2 and 3 both show some repeated concerns that can
help us appreciate the ways in which the tomb was experienced, the
histories of its creation and its relationships with the cosmos. Both
cells are heavily decorated, and it has been suggested that some motifs
are deliberately placed in relation to sunlight. This is the case for Cell
2’s central stone, C8, where particular motifs are illuminated by direct
sunlight at the equinoxes (Brennan 1983; O’Brien 1992). It has been
suggested that the reflected sunlight then illuminates the roofstone
(Brennan 1983, 169). There are, however, inherent dangers in focusing on
the particular images that are highlighted by the sun, as a result of the
extensive OPW (Office of Public Works) restorations that altered the
original shape of the entrance (McMann 1994, 537).
In the entire Cairn T passage tomb, radial images dominate, being present on 37% of all the carved surfaces. Shee Twohig (1996) has commented that Cairn T demonstrates a desire for coherence, with almost identically styled images appearing in juxtaposition to each other in the passageway, with the 4 main orthostats in the central chamber (C1, C5, C10 and C15) also having similar imagery. Such symmetry fits well with Foucault’s (2002, 235) definitions of the roles that heterotopias may play. The juxtaposition of similar images creates a space of illusions that exposes and enhances the partitioning and ordering of movement within the passage tomb, whilst simultaneously reflecting and inverting the random, messy and jumbled aspects of life.
To the north of Cairn T and on the exterior is located K29 or the ‘Hag’s Chair’.
This kerbstone has visual imagery on its front and back face. The top of the central
part of this kerbstone is believed to be artificially cut to create the chair appearance
(Shee Twohig 1981, 217; contra. Conwell 1866, 371), and the inlaid cross on the ‘seat’
surface may have been cut by surveyors engaged in the ‘Trigonometrical Irish Survey’
(Frazer 1893, 321; but see McMann 1993, 27). Conwell commented that many of the images
on K29 were ‘…much defaced by the action of time and weather…’ (1866, 372). The images
that we see today, over a hundred years later, are unfortunately even more weathered, so
that Shee Twohig (1981, Fig. 238) had to reproduce Du Noyer’s water-colour sketch from
Frazer’s paper (1893, Fig. 45) in her corpus.
Six of the passage orthostats include imagery (R1, R3, R4, L1, L3 and L4). R4 is covered
in deep cupmarks and although Frazer (1895, 64-71, cited in Shee Twohig 1981, 211)
stated that they were caused by the burrowing of the sea urchin echinus lividus,
McMann (1993, 34) has again suggested that these were created for or by the periodical
insertion of stone or chalk balls. Other stones that have embellished natural hollows include C1 and C17.
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