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The Derrykeighan La Tène Stone, the only La Tène stone in Northern Ireland & 1 of
only 5 in the whole of Ireland, is mostly carved in low relief, with a continuous abstract
La Tène style design, similar to that on the Turoe La Tène Stone in County Galway. The
unique design is an early example of Celtic La Tène art, dating from the Iron Age,
around c. 50 AD by the people living in the north-eastern region of Ireland. It was
discovered in 1977 in the ruins of the old church at Derrykeighan but it is unclear if the
people who built the church in the 17th century placed it there by accident or
deliberately. The stone, measuring 0.90m in height, 0.45m in width & 0.22m in depth,
was probably of ritual importance to the Iron Age pagan people of the region, and yet it
was built into the wall of a Christian church. The art was carved on the stone during
the Iron Age, at a time when the influence of the Celts was reaching Ireland from
continental Europe. The stone was removed to the Ulster Museum for further study and
preservation and replaced by a replica. The La Tène design is now used as the emblem
for Ballymoney Museum. According to Mr. Richard Warner, Assistant Keeper of
Antiquities at the Ulster Museum, the stone was discovered during renovation work on
the old church, which is now owned by the Ballymoney Borough Council.
‘The stone is not part of the original fabric of the building, nor could it have belonged
to any earlier Christian building on the site. It must have been brought, with other
useful building stones, form somewhere in the locality, when the building was being
renovated in the 17th century or since.’ ‘The stone is decorated in a style which can be
closely dated to the 1st century AD or thereabouts. This stone is extremely important
because it shows that the art was local and that these items were not imported from
other areas in Ireland.’