Happy Friday. I’m so inspired by the beauty of the ocean and nature. Have a great weekend.
Happy Friday. I’m so inspired by the beauty of the ocean and nature. Have a great weekend.
I’ve had the great good luck to spend time in this beautiful place and can share some photos with you. I hope they bring you a smile the way they did for me.
Carrowmore is old, 4,000 – 3,000 BC, but one of the tombs probably dates back to 5,400 to 4,600 BC. As part of the Neolithic Stone Age, we know people farmed, and we also know they had burial rituals.
This picture is a little out of focus, but it gives you an idea of what the experts think the burial rites might have been. There is evidence of pottery, tools, and bone rings from walrus tusks.
These are passage tombs. Here is a close up of the little figures showing a dramatization of what might have been their rituals. I always think of tombs being for old people, but of course infant mortality must have been high, and maybe their rituals helped them find some purpose in their loss.
The museum display humanizes the site before going out into the rain to look at rocks. The grass was long and soaked our sneakers at the start of a long day of driving and sight seeing. I’m so glad we did it though.
What are cold feet compared to seeing what people were doing five to seven thousand years ago?
Before we headed out to Carrowmore, we had made a quick stop at Lough Gill. It was pretty and peaceful, at least until a couple men showed up with barking dogs off-leash. Before that, I felt transported to my philosophical youth when Yeats’ poetry thrilled me so much. And I had my hand-knit wool sweater from the Aran Islands to keep me warm.
I found the whole area mystical, and if I have one regret about the trip it’s that we didn’t spend three days in Sligo. Here’s a photo of the town, which was beautiful and had nice restaurants beside the river.
I want to go back, but I never will. Even though I was lucky to get to go once, it’s still strange to think I’ll never return. That is life; it is finite even for those of us who live in this time with our longer lifespans (compared to stone age lifespans). Even though we all like to say “Next time,” with a laugh, we all know there won’t be a next time. Travel is intense and fleeting.
I’m actually writing a novel about that among other things. Back to it!
Have a great weekend.
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.
Immediately upon entry you are presented with the earliest relics, stone tools discovered from the paleolithic period, the earliest stone age.
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.
Here’s information about the Paleolithic Period.
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.
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.
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.
A Neolithic tomb at Carrowmore, Sligo County, Ireland
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.
I condemn the brutal attack on innocent human beings in New Zealand. Those who seek a few laughs and approval from their like-minded invisible audiences on social media are empty. Their violence against those who seek meaning through their spirituality and rigorous devotion to a higher calling is horrifying, an affront to humanity, and a heartbreaking tragedy, but it does not create meaning, nor does it obviate the meaning of their victims or their lives.
Acts of violence and hatred are meaningless, and the perpetrators are the manifestation of the lowest levels of human nature. Those who strive to be more, to create meaning through devotion to spirituality, knowledge, rightness, kindness, art, family or community are the manifestations of the highest levels of human nature. It is to these human beings, they are not just victims, they have lived honorably, and it is to them and to their ideals, that I devote my attention.
I’m working on what has turned out to be a long and complicated post, and I’m also finishing my first draft, so it’s taking a while to finish that post. I thought in the meantime I’d share a photo from recent adventures.
I snapped this with my phone while on break from some volunteer work I did at a ski race in Alpine Meadows.
I haven’t been skiing this year, and this day went from sunny to stormy. I was reminded just how cold skiing can be! But during the break between the two runs, I had a chance to take a picture. Then Google stylized it for me, so it’s a little more intense than in real life, but I kind of liked it and hope you do too.
Here are some birds who visited our feeder today. Hope you enjoy them as much as we did.
Yarrow’s is a trail of multiple brochs, including a fascinating one that is half underwater. We parked and studied the map in the parking lot then stared around us at a loss. Nothing was as depicted. We walked up the road where we noticed, lower down the slope and off to the right, a rundown farmhouse with a sloped corrugated tin roof. A few dark windows made it look lifeless or like someone was watching us. It was creepy.
To the left was was a gate, unlocked, and we went through it, climbing through a very rough field past some sheep and horses.
We arrived at the amazing half submerged broch.
The ruins are the stone foundations of what is thought once to have been tall wood and thatch structures. The stone foundations show how the neolithic people lived, with multiple rooms, sleeping areas, a central fireplace. And the people reused their refuse, shells and so on, in other ways. Quite sustainable and cooperative!Next we tried to climb to the top of a ridge on the other side of the road, but the ground was broken into large chunks as though a herd of horses or cows had been driven over it after a rain. It was impossible to walk over it, so the three brochs up there remained out of reach.
We figured the farmer was forced to preserve the historic sites and let visitors onto his land to looked at them, but they couldn’t be forced to make it easy!
We left, grateful for seeing the best broch and thinking about how all these ruins are national treasures or a big pain in the neck, depending on your situation. How they are preserved and shared and the impact of tourism on today’s farmers as well as on the sites would seem a bit complicated. Of course more funding would make a huge difference, and I hope that comes about, so all the remains can be preserved formally with support for the local farmers too.
I’m tired of rain, so I’m going to share some photos from a rare semi-sunny day on our Scotland leg of the journey.
After getting off the ferry from the Orkney islands, we drove out to the eastern tip of the highlands, Duncansby Head. It was windy there, as it probably always is,
but there was some sun, and it was beautiful. The area is known for its “stacks,”
but it also has a lot of seabirds. We looked for puffins but didn’t see any, however being above seagulls and being able to observe their nests as well as their hunting way below, was fun and interesting, a different perspective, for sure.
Those pictures don’t show the perspective but this one does a bit:
The Duncansby Head Lighthouse is also a sight listed in the book for the intrepid traveler.
I know that’s a cliche, “intrepid traveler,” but you need to be fearless to drive the North Coast 500, as this popular route is called. The trouble is people go over the line. Okay, let me back up for a long story, which you are welcome to skip, now that you’ve seen the photos. :–)
On the trip, it came quickly to the point that I was fired from driving because I had a weird tick. Driving on the left side of the road, every time I saw a car coming in the opposite direction, for some reason it looked like we were going to collide, so I’d swerve. My husband in the passenger seat would get a jolt of adrenaline as the left-side wheels would almost go off the road. Let’s just say it wasn’t relaxing for him when I drove, LOL! He took over the driving, and that was great, but any time we had a near head-on, his adrenaline would spike. In his case, they really were near head-ons, it wasn’t his imagination. That really happened twice, once in Northern Ireland and once right after this beautiful morning visit to Duncansby Head.
I had a huge day planned. We would stop at a half dozen archaeological ruins on our way back down to Inverness. The area is full of brochs, the neolithic ruins. But on the way to the first sight after Duncansby, someone came over the line, and my husband had to go onto the shoulder, which isn’t paved, just a bit of gravel then a ditch, at about 50 miles an hour. He held the wheel rock steady, and we were fine.
I decided to count how long it was after a near-death experience before the adrenaline dissipated, so I asked him a few times how he was feeling, and it took 15 minutes for his adrenaline to abate. Once it’s gone, so is all your energy, and all the driving after that is exhausting, because you have to stay highly focused, but the adrenaline spike and then whatever happens to your body after it goes away, is really tiring. I figured out that once you have an incident like that, your long driving and sight-seeing day is shot.
So I narrowed down the stops to just one, the Yarrows Archaeological Trail, which I will go into next post. After that stop we counted down the minutes until we could get to the hotel. It was the longest two or three hours ever. Once at the hotel, we headed straight for the bar for a whiskey. (It was a really cool hotel, a converted castle, and the dinner was amazing, kind of formal and delicious.)
I think the North Coast 500 is incredible, but it’s become popular and doesn’t have the infrastructure, so it’s basically a nightmare for driving. We saw small tour buses, and that would be easier, but I’m not sure they’re any safer. And I’m not totally crazy, there was a brutal accident on the drive from Inverness back to Edinburgh, and someone who had been on a motorcycle was airlifted out by helicopter. We thankfully did not witness it, but sat for a long time in traffic while the accident was cleared, and when we passed the mangled bike, I was pretty sad. I have a friend who wants to motorcycle through Ireland, and my advice is, stick to the US. Then again, maybe the back country roads are easier on a motorcycle. All I know is, I’m really NOT an intrepid/fearless traveler, but I did have an incredibly good time, despite not seeing everything and being scared a few times.
If you do the North Coast 500, that eastern side above Inverness is staggering in its number of archaeological sites and breathtaking scenery, but I recommend taking at least a week to do it, really creep along stopping for just a couple sites a day before relaxing at your hotel.