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Prehistory Beginnings


Te last twenty years have seen an upsurge of interest in the archaeology and the palaeo-environment of Connemara and the region has more than fulfilled the expectations of the researchers involved. Small but very significant finds of later Mesolithic material have been made, most recently at Streamstown, together with dozens of important Neolithic and Bronze Age sites from c. 5000–1000 B.C. Entirely new as well as hitherto little-known site types, including prehis- toric house types and new variants of Megalithic Tombs, have been discovered in Connemara and have caught public attention.


Earliest People in the West: Fishers and Foragers. Connemara in the Mesolithic era (8000 – 4000 B.C.)


From 1200 B.C. onwards, temperatures rose rapidly and the ice melted. Woodlands quickly developed and these blan- keted the country. Ireland has been settled for almost 10,000 years. Te initial colonists were hunter-gatherer groups from Britain and northern France, though the evidence for this first wave’s arrival in the west is still tantalisingly absent. Towards the end of this Mesolithic period more information is forthcoming. Te first decisive evidence of human habi- tation in Connemara dates back to about 7,000 years ago, when small bands of late Mesolithic hunter-gatherers seem to have arrived. Tey followed migrating herds of animals, fish and fowl, along the river valleys and coastlines.


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Tese early settlers lived by fishing, hunting, foraging and


fowling. Teir lives were based around the estuaries of the great rivers, on the lake systems behind them and on the seashore all of which provided plentiful supplies of food. Particularly important were places on migration routes of animals, fish and birds. Choke points on large lakes, river shallows or river mouths were favoured as they provided ideal conditions for a nomadic population to maximise their hunt- ing efforts. In rapid succession, a series of mammals, followed by the first humans, exploited this new environment.


Te seasonal nature of the animals they hunted forced the people of the Mesolithic to adopt a broad-based strategy to survive. Teir world was a nomadic one, fast moving, season- al and opportunistic. Not only the obvious resources, such as hides for clothes but also all available natural resources had to be exploited. Around 5000 B.C. the evidence left behind by these nomadic people is sometimes nothing more tangi- ble than stone points known as Bann flakes (named after an important Mesolithic site on the River Bann). Tese were mounted to produce a throwing spear.


Bann flakes have been discovered on the banks of the


Owenriff River near Oughterard in east Connemara and another Mesolithic spear head was found in Streamstown townland. Tese are beginning to create a picture of Mesolithic activities in this part of the country. It seems likely that Mesolithic hunters and fishermen took advantage of the


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