Arrival

Evidence for the migration of farming communities into Ireland comes from Cashelkeelty in County Kerry.  
It is from this location that we get out dates of 3900-3000.  When the settlers came over the Irish Sea, it
is theorised that they brought their animals with them on rafts led by skin boats.  

Settling Down

The way these, and many, neolithic farmers cleared lands for farms was by burning or chopping down
trees with stone axes.  There were no natural cereal crops but the settlers brought with them wheat and
barley. (Cereal crops, by definition, are grown for their edible seeds/grain like wheat, oats, maize, etc.)  
The wheat was an early type and it had to be roasted to get the grain from it.

The fields were most likely surrounded by forests, prickly bushes with edible berries and eventually other
prickly bushes.  Some examples included wild roses, hawthorn, honeysuckle and ivy.  The prickly bushes
were, in part, to keep animals away from the crops.

Domesticated sheep, goats and cattle were not native to Ireland either; they were brought by the same
settlers.

Evidence from Ceide Fields in County Mayo shows how the Neolithic Irish lived.  Much like their Mesolithic
(Middle Stone Age) ancestors, there were a cluster of houses surrounding a communal, multi-purpose
house.  The houses were rectangular, had large tree trunks sunk into the ground and/or mud covered
interwoven branches for walls.  The roofs would most likely have had holes in them since evidence shows
that these Neolithic farmers cooked indoors thus needed a way for smoke to be released from the house.

Now how can we know all of this?  Archaeological evidence gives us these answers from clues like holes
in the ground and stone walls.  For agricultural evidence, scientists look at the pollen counts and other
remnants in the lower levels of soil.  Below is a picture of a reconstructed Neolithic Irish house:
Pottery

By this point we have evidence of pottery in use in Ireland.  Most utensils seem to have been created by
coiling clay to create a basic pot shape, and then smoothed down.  Some were even decorated by pressing
objects like sticks and stones into the wet clay.  The pot was then hardened in a hot fire.  Pots were used
for storage as well as lamps. To turn a pot into a lamp it just had to be filled with some fat and then lit.
Tools of Neolithic Ireland
  • flint leaf, lozenge and barbed shaped
    arrowheads
  • flint scrapers
  • 'slug' knives (flat on one side & curved on
    the other)
  • tools to work wood, bone and antler
  • polished stone axes (the stone would be
    glued in with resin and then tied in place
    for extra support)
  • round bottom pots of clay
  • flat bottom pots of clay
  • Beaker ware of clay
Some Major Neolithic Sites in Ireland

  • Lough Gur, Co. Limerick - a great site for the Western Neolithic pottery and other wares called the
    "Limerick style".  This settlement had several structures.  At site A, the door was in the South-West
    part of the house and there was a hearth at the center of the building.  The house was broken up
    into 3 sections, possibly to allow for separate sleeping quarters or storage.  There were 2 additional
    rectangular houses at this site.  There were also 3 circular houses, two of which had mud walls filled
    between concentric rings of wood.  In addition, there seem to be some temporary shelters during this
    time at the site.  Additionally there is the Grange stone circle which contained large amounts of
    Beaker remains.
  • Ballynagilly, Co. Tyrone - the oldest Neolithic culture in Ireland is found at this site.  It is comprised
    of a small hill of gravel, which used to be covered with peat, surrounded by bog.  There is the
    remnants of a rectangular house with parallel trenches used in the foundation.  Each trench has a
    posthole at the ends.  It looks like the walls were of oak which was split and stood on its end.  
    Although this is a first for Ireland, this style has been found in several Central European Celtic sites.  
    There were two hearths in the center of the building and two additional posts.
  • Newgrange, Knowth, and Dowth Co. Meath - These incredible sites deserve more than a brief
    description. Please see http://www.knowth.com for details.