The earliest form of Irish writing is a system known as the Ogham (also spelled “Ogam”) Script. This first appeared about the 4th century C.E. and may be indigenous to Ireland. The Ogham Script was used from the 4th century through the 7th century, a period during which the Irish were converting from paganism to Christianity.
While this system of writing is preserved today only on stones (about 350 are known to exist), archaeologists generally feel that it was probably done on wood as well. Suggestions regarding the use of the Ogham Script on wood come from the oral tradition and from stories such as those in Cormac’s Glossary. Most of the stones were concentrated in counties Kerry, Cork, and Waterford. The presence of Ogham Stones in Wales has led some scholars to conclude that their presence in Wales was the result of Irish settlement in the area. Other scholars, however, feel that Ogham Script actually originated in Wales rather than in Ireland. The stones found in Wales tend to be in both Irish and Latin, while those in Ireland are written only in Irish.