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Mesolithic and Neolithic

Categories: HistoryIrelandScience

The tools used by Mesolithic and Neolithic people were highly significant for their survival. They played a key role as a means of obtaining food, whether it is for farming the land or hunting wild animals. Both Mesolithic and Neolithic people therefore had a great impact on the cultural landscape of Ireland in relation to their own excavation for stone. One of the most important sites in this context therefore is Mount Sandel in County Londonderry/Derry. The evidence from Mount Sandel hut sites, which were excavated by Professor Peter Woodman, shows they were in use from around 7000 B.

C. to 6650 BC, during the Mesolithic period. “Flint tools from the Mesolithic are often the best evidence of these early sites. Other tools, from wood and bone may well have been used, but flint is the one that survived the thousands of years in the ground. Early Mesolithic people used tools called microliths. These microliths -as their name implies – were tiny slivers of worked flint and are extraordinary in their sophistication.

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Many different types are identifiable and the use to which they were put has been determined. These include scalene triangles, rods, needlepoints, and micro-awls.

These tiny flint blades were often used in composite tools with wooden handles, which have not survived. During the Later Mesolithic period, tool-making technology was less sophisticated than in the Early Mesolithic. Composite tools with tiny microliths were no longer the norm, but larger – some say ‘cruder’ – flakes of flint were in use. Because of the number of these tools found in Northern Ireland’s Bann Valley, the tools themselves are referred to as Bann Flakes.

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” http://www. ballybegvillage. com/archaeology. html. The stone used during the Neolithic period, is a special stone called porcellanite.

A volcanic stone that can be located in two places in Ulster, firstly Brockley on Rathlin Island and also Tievebulliagh near Cushendall, Co. Antrim, at both sites hundreds of “roughouts” (uncompleted axes) have been found. Neolithic miners would break off the rock by building fires against the stone and then applying water to cause it to fracture and break off. They would break the clumps of porcellanite into suitable sizes and then begin flaking them into the general shape of an axe-, which would then be used for cultivating their land or hunting.

The most significant contribution to the cultural landscape however comes from the Neolithic people. These are one of the most important legacies left by the Neolithic farmers and are their Megaliths, or large earthen constructions, used primarily as burial places. Megaliths are not exclusive to Ireland as others have been found across Europe, yet with over 1500-recorded megalithic tombs still in existence in Ireland, it is an important aspect of Irish history. The later peoples of Ireland would wonder at these huge mysterious developments and repeatedly attribute them to giants, bringing about the increase of giants in Irish mythology.

It would be wrong to believe that the construction of these megaliths began at the start of the Neolithic period- but rather nearer to the end of the period when thoughts of mind and ways of live had developed and adapted to environmental surroundings and changes. For example, the first farmers were probably Mesolithic people that had been educated on how it is more efficient to grow crops instead of hunting food sources from settlers that had immigrated across the Irish Sea. They would then have to adapt to this new culture, not having time to construct some of the detailed and complicated designs of the megaliths.

Megaliths are heavily concentrated in the north of Ireland and can be broken down into three clear types (Court Tombs, Portal Tombs and Passage Tombs), which may be evidence of primitive religious groupings. Built mainly in upland areas, a Court tomb consisted of a segmented stone chamber covered by an earthen mound, with an entrance courtyard that invariably faces east. It is also possible that the word “tomb” is used wrongly to describe this building, as it could have possibly been used as a place of worship, examples of such tombs can be seen in Annaghmare, County Armagh, Sligo, Leitrim, Mayo and Antrim.

Portal Tombs consist of three or more vertical stones on top of which are perched one or two capstones. The capstones always lean down towards one side, leaving a large opening at the high end. Many of these tombs have collapsed over the 5000 years from when they were built however, they do remain one of the most recognizable forms of megaliths, and examples of these tombs are found best in Carlingford, County Leitrim. And finally Passage tombs, the most impressive of all. These are the youngest of the tomb types, build by the later Neolithic peoples and tend to be architecturally more architecturally more adventurous than the others.

“They consist of a roughly circular earthen mound under which is a central chamber and a passage leading into it. The passage is made from large vertical stones with flat stones laid across them and then covered in soil. The most famous and remarkable example is Newgrange, County Meath and perhaps the most intriguing feature of passage tombs is their art. Stones both inside and outside them are decorated with swirls, chevrons, eye-motifs etc which have over the years eroded away to leave mounds of nondescript rocks”. http://www. wesleyjohnston . com. users/ireland/past/pre_norman_history/neolithic_age.

html It is possible, that there was migrant human existence before the Mesolithic era, however there is no conclusive evidence to support this- it is important to acknowledge that there are places which have yet to be excavated, and could possibly date to earlier periods. Both the Mesolithic and Neolithic Age left a great mark on Ireland. The forests had been cleared for farmland, and by the end of the age, they were starting to clear the lower forests. Sheep, cows and other domesticated animals had been imported to Ireland from mainland Britain for the first time.

Megalithic tombs spread across the landscape, and by the time Bronze was introduced to Ireland around 2000BC, Neolithic culture was evident across the Island.

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Mesolithic and Neolithic. (2020, Jun 02). Retrieved from

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