Cumann Seandalaiochta agus Staire Phort Lairge

Friday, September 23, 2022

Sheela-na-Gigs – Revising the Story of Exhibitionist Figures : A lecture by Gary Dempsey

 Sheela-na-Gigs – Revising the Story of Exhibitionist Figures

A lecture by Gary Dempsey to the Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society


The Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society 2022 – 2023 lecture series kicks-off at 8 pm on Friday, September 30th in St Patrick’s Gateway Centre, Waterford (Eircode X91 YX61) when Gary Dempsey will deliver a talk titled ‘Sheela-na-Gigs – revising the story of exhibitionist figures’.


Sheela-na-Gigs are the perfect mystery. We know as much as they are willing to reveal, and while their form is often revealing, their function is ever enigmatic. Sheela3D is a digital heritage project started by DH_Age in 2016 as a showcase of digital recording. The project's main aim is to create a 3D record of all known Irish Sheela-na-Gig carvings. In that time there have been four new discoveries, as well as several replica carvings reported. The traditional Sheela-na-Gig carving is seen as a naked female sculpture, exposing her genitals, and often described as grotesque. Gary’s talk will discuss the limiting nature of these descriptions and demonstrate how the carvings fit within a wider medieval tradition.

Gary will also address the folk traditions associated with Sheela-na-gigs and discuss historical issues with their study which have led to several misunderstandings. Building on a local perspective, a discussion on the distribution of carvings based on the mapping and reclassification of carvings will seek to explore the lack of recorded carvings in Waterford and the south-east of Ireland. 


Gary Dempsey is the Creative Director of DH_AGe and lectures at the Atlantic Technological University - Galway City in Heritage; Animation and Game Design. He holds an MA in Irish Studies from Galway University (NUIG), and MSc in Heritage Visualisation from Glasgow School of Art, Scotland. Gary's research interests include ritual landscapes, with a particular focus on the Rathcroghan complex in Co. Roscommon. He has recently commenced a research PhD examining stonemasons in medieval Ireland, through which he hopes to examine the social development of the vocation of Irish stonemasons from the 12th to the 17th century. He has published several short articles in Archaeology Ireland focusing on Rathcroghan and aerial archaeology, with more recently co-authored papers with Orla-Peach Power focusing on Sheela-na-Gigs and Digital Heritage for citizen science in a book titled Partnership and Participation: Community Archaeology in Ireland edited by Christine Baker and published by Wordwell.

The Waterford Archaeological and Historical Society, Ireland.
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