Pilgrims and Pebbles: The Taskscape of Veneration on Inishark, Co. Galway

Author(s): Ryan Lash

Year: 2017


This paper explores how a relational approach centered on the concept of taskscape could reinvigorate analyses of how pilgrimages create, sustain, or transform human-environment relations. Medieval and modern traditions of pilgrimage in Ireland are renowned for their engagement with ‘natural’ places and objects, such as mountains, springs, and stones. Some take this focus as evidence of an animistic pre-Christian heritage, but few have questioned how such practices structured peoples’ ideas and interactions with the environment in Christian centuries. Eight years of research on the island of Inishark, Co. Galway has brought to light an early medieval pilgrimage landscape in which many shrine monuments acted as the foci of veneration and the deposition of water-rolled pebbles, including both decorated and undecorated pieces. Interweaving archaeological, textual, and folkloric evidence, I investigate the gathering, curation, and embodied interaction with pebbles in the context of contemporary processional rituals and cosmology. Considering the taskscape of human and non-human actions that brought pebbles to shrines suggests how the experience of pilgrimage afforded ideas of divine creation, reinforced notions of sacred hierarchy, and sustained monastic agricultural regimes.

Cite this Record

Pilgrims and Pebbles: The Taskscape of Veneration on Inishark, Co. Galway. Ryan Lash. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 430764)


Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 13262