When I was a kid I glazed over when viewing a sociology and archaeology text books showing the remains of ancient civilizations. I thought it was boring. But no more. Traveling inspires me to learn and seeing ruins in person is exciting.

In Dublin, our first stop on the trip, I wanted a little orientation to the ancient sites we would be seeing on our journey, so we walked over to the famed Archaeology site of the National Museum of Ireland.

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Immediately upon entry you are presented with the earliest relics, stone tools discovered from the paleolithic period, the earliest stone age.

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1. Flint Hand Axe Dun Aonghasa, Inishmore, (Dun Aengus, on the Aran Islands), County Galway 400,000-100,000 BC. 2. Flint Flake Mell, County Louth, 400,000-100,000 BCA

Wow, that’s old. This is not boring. My excitement at getting to see sites of early humans was growing. Here they are starting to use tools. Later, we would make it to Dun Aengus where we didn’t see such ancient relics but did get to see the approximate iron-age (circa 600 – 200 BC) hilltop fort.

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Dun Aengus, Aran Islands, Ireland. Iron Age fort circa 600 – 200 BC.

Here’s information about the Paleolithic Period.

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The earliest stage of the Stone Age – the Paleolithic – began with the emergence of humankind and the use of stone tools more than one million years ago. It covered most of the last great Ice Age until the final retreat of the ice sheets around twelve thousand BC. During part of the last Ice Age human groups could have settled in parts of Munster, but no material comparable to the Paleolithic settlements of Britain and mainland Europe has so far been discovered. Three objects of Paleolithic Age which may date between three hundred thousand and four hundred thousand BC have been found in Ireland but there is no certainty that they represent evidence of human settlement here. A flint flake from Mel, County Louth, found in glacial gravel, is thought to have been transported to Ireland by moving ice during the Ice Age. A hand-axe from Coolalisheen, County Cork, found two-feet down in a garden, resembles hand-axes found in southern Britain. This object and the second hand-axe from Dun Aonghasa, a large promontory fort on Inishmore, Aran Islands, County Galway, may have been brought to Ireland in recent times.

I especially love the paleo period, it’s so elemental without a lot of social structure and belief systems, or maybe none, just the struggle to survive and getting better at it by turning rocks into tools. However it looked like we weren’t going to see a lot of Paleolithic relics in Ireland.

After that was the Mesolithic era.

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In 2006, at the edge of a raised bog in Clowanstown Co. Meath, four conical fish traps were excavated. Organic Mesolithic artifacts like these are exceptionally rare in Ireland and, due to their fragile nature, a large-scale conservation project was undertaken. Although flattened when found, the traps retained a distinctive V-shape with evidence for constrictions at the open ends. Slender rods and twisted wefts of alder, birch and rosewood were woven together using an open-twined technique. The traps would originally have been positioned on the bed of a small lake adjacent to a mooring or walkway. Also found at the site was a possible model boat made from a pomaceous fruitwood such as apple, pear or hawthorn, dating to between c 5300-5050 BC, and a number of lithics.

The most important period for this trip was the Neolithic era because this was the timeframe of the relics and ruins we visited.

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Neolithic settlement (3700 – 2500 BC): Neolithic settlements in Ireland were adapted to the mild but moist climate of the time. Family units lived in rectangular houses and practiced mixed farming. The walls of the houses were constructed of split oak timbers set in trenches and held in position with small stones. These houses were used for a short period, perhaps a single generation. Remains of wheat, barley, sloes, blackberries, crab-apples and hazelnuts have been found and bones of cattle, sheep, goats and pigs also survive. Household goods included undecorated, often shouldered, pottery bowls used for storage and cooking. Small tools of land such as arrowheads, blades, knives and scrapers were in use for a range of functions well-polished stone axes and adzes were in use to clear woodlands for and for carpentry.

People began to farm in the Neolithic stone age, and they have left behind ruins of their civilizations. Here are some the impressive passage tombs of Carrowmore in Sligo County, which are dated to 3700-2900 BC.

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A Neolithic tomb at Carrowmore, Sligo County, Ireland

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Another monument at Carrowmore

This is going to have to be continued because I wanted to get this posted, and it’s going to take a while to work through all of this archaeology. And I know you don’t have much time to read either! Have a great week.