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Flints Beggarstown, Co. Antrim

The Neolithic Age

c. 4000 - 2000 B.C.

The First Farmers

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Reconstruction of Neolithic house

It seems that there was a gradual changeover from the Mesolithic era to the Neolithic era, with new settlers arriving in Ireland bringing new farming techniques.  This was the era of more settled peoples who grew their own crops and laid by stores of grains to tide them over the winter.  They still hunted and gathered in berries and nuts but now their diet was supplemented on a regular basis by the produce of their crops, and by the domesticated animals they now kept such as pigs, sheep, cattle and hunting dogs who kept predators at bay and warned of intruders.

This left them more time to create artworks and decorated utensils.  The decorated macehead found at Knowth is one of the most beautiful pieces of art that has come down to us from Neolithic times.  It would have been used for ceremonial purposes.  

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Knowth Macehead

Funerary  pottery

The earliest examples of pottery found in Neolithic times are plain not over decorated bowls with a 'shoulder' or a 'neck' to separate the top from the containment area.  A variety of colours of pottery came about due to different clay used and different firing methods.  In the later Neolithic the pottery becomes more decorative.  Most pottery has been found at the excavations of burial sites, remains were cremated and the burnt bones buried along with the urns.  Some of the later decorated pottery was probably used as status symbols by the leaders of the communities. In the earlier examples the pottery is round bottomed and only in the late Neolithic does it become flat bottomed. 

Decorative Jewellery in the form of beads and pendants were produced by the Neolithic peoples.  They were made from stone, and bone and even the teeth of animals, as in the example from Annaghmare, Co. Armagh of a bear's tooth pendant.  There are no examples yet of amber or jet beads from this time period.

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Carrowkeel beads and pendants

The houses built at this time are much more permanent than those of Mesolithic times, (picture).  The Neolithic house builders chose the site of their homes very well; they needed to be close to water, good arable land, land for animals to graze on, with building materials such as wood nearby also.  The remains of the house found at Lough Gur provided enough evidence for archaeologists to extrapolate what the whole house would have looked like.  Reconstructions of Neolithic houses can be seen at the Ulster History Park, Omagh, Co. Tyrone and also at Lough Gur, Co. Limerick. 

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Entrance to Newgrange Monument

Many writers claim that it was the Neolithic people that built the Megalithic structures such as those at Newgrange, Knowth and Poulnabrone simply because burial remains were found at these sites which were carbon dated to Neolithic times.  By that same logic if I was buried in a 17th century house and my remains were discovered thousands of years later, it would be assumed that the people of my time had built the house or structure I was buried under, ... so there is a very big flaw in the arguments of the archaeologists who claim that a people who are still in the 'Stone Age' could have constructed some of the Megalithic structures which have complex alignments to solar events as well as to lunar events which would have to be observed and known about for thousands of years.. 

Therefore we at shee-eire have an open mind on who might have constructed the Megalithic monuments, we do not believe that these monuments were all constructed in Neolithic times, many could have been constructed thousands of years before Neolithic times by a people with advanced knowledge of astronomy and engineering.

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. 


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