Practically all traces of these early inhabitants are either gone or buried very deep in the stratae of modern Ireland. Many archaeologists concentrate on the Mesolithic Age onwards, very little research has been done to establish who the first inhabitants of Ireland were. The research that has been done on the pre-historic peoples of Ireland centres mainly on the remains of tools, weapons and other artefacts they left behind, little else is known about them.
The many uses of stone are as follows: flint spears, porcellanite axes, heavy ironstone axes, sandstone for sharpening and siltstone for giving the final edge to implements. Quern-stones were used for grinding grains, granite and white sandstone were used for this purpose. Querns were also used to grind out ores from stones. Fine grained stones such as flint or jasper were used to make archer's wrist bracers. Shale, soapstone, slate or micaschist was used for items that needed to be thin with perforations for uses such as spindle-whorls, loom weights or line-sinkers.
Most of the information we have of the Mesolithic period in Ireland comes from excavations at Mount Sandel in County Derry (see pic of flints) where many flint artefacts were uncovered as well as evidence of settlement and the remains of carbonated bones (burnt bones) of wild pig (boar), rabbit, dog, capercaillie, salmon, hazelnuts and some sea-fish which gives us an idea of what they ate. It would seem that the boar was their main form of sustenance in the winter months and that salmon were a large part of their summer diets which would explain why the boar and the salmon have such a high place in ancient irish symbolism.
Another site of archaeological importance is Lough Boora near Kilcormac in Co. Offaly, the archaeologist Michael Ryan excavated the remains of a Mesolithic settlement dating from c.7030 - c.6400 bc, showing that it was contemporary with the Mount Sandel site. 400 leaf-shaped and over 200 microliths were found at the site. Black chert was used by the people at this site. Also excavations in the Munster Blackwater area by Peter Woodman has uncovered earlier Mesolithic flints than those at Mount Sandel.
It is obvious that these people were very inventive and used their environment to its full potential, they had of necessity to be self-sufficient but would have welcomed trade. They probably wore furs, and leather and hemp based fabrics, nettles were also used to create fabrics also used was wool from sheep. They may have used birds feathers for ornamentation. Natural dyes from plant sources may also have been used. We can look to some of the peoples still living a 'Mesolithic' way of life even today in our modern era such as the peoples of the deep Amazon to give us clues to the way the people of this obscured time lived.
*R.A.S. Macalister - Ancient Ireland, Methuen & Co. Ltd. London, pub.1935 (p1)
Sources: Irish Archaeology Illustrated edited by Michael Ryan pub. Dublin 1994
Harbison, Peter - Pre-christian Ireland, from the first settlers to the Early Celts, pub. Thames&Hudson 1998.