Historic stone carving uncovered in Co Fermanagh

Posted By: March 29, 2013

Belfast Telegraph Publication Date: 28 July 2003

By Fiona McIlwaine Biggins

THE discovery of a new stone carving in Co Fermanagh has shed new light on one of the most famous images of Ulster tourism – the mysterious figures on Boa Island.

The second abstract carved stone image, originally from a graveyard on nearby Lusty More Island, has possible links to the renowned Janus figure at Caldragh Cemetery on Boa Island in the Fermanagh lakeland, between Kesh and Belleek.

And this new, more worn sculpture, with a blind eye and elongated hands, appears to complete the well-known double-faced Janus with its crossed arms, believed to be a fertility symbol or a warrior god.

According to local historian John Cunningham, the two are pre-Christian, dating back around 2,000 to 3,000 years.

“The second figure came originally from an old graveyard on Lusty More Island and has one badly defaced side.

“The other side has a squatting figure with a large head and joined hands which seem to hold something.

“These figures seem to date from Celtic times and were part of their worship – perhaps a representation of their gods.”

And he went on to explain: “The heads are symbolically large because the Celts believed that the head was the seat of the soul and the centre of man’s life force and power.

“In battle it was usual to take the head from the body of a defeated enemy.”

However, he dismissed the statues as having anything to do with the Roman god Janus who had two faces, but rather that they are janiform figures – having two heads with outward faces.

The famous stone figures are some of the most photographed symbols appearing in guidebooks and literature associated with Ireland as a whole.