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many suitable ecosystems in Connemara with their tradition- al runs of salmon and trout and perhaps some of the closer fishing grounds offshore.

The Beginnings of Agriculture and the First Farmers: Connemara in the Neolithic and early Bronze Age (4000 - 1500 B.C.)

Around 4000 B.C. the people of Connemara began to make the transition from a Mesolithic hunter-gatherer lifestyle to a Neolithic one based on farming. Why they did this is still un- clear. One theory is that nomadic hunter-gatherers may have gradually adopted a Neolithic or farming economy as they encountered farming groups through long distance trading contacts. Another is that they may have been exterminated, enslaved or displaced by farming communities, which were able to support larger numbers of better-organised warriors. Whichever was the case the transition was made.

Key sources of information on early settlement are the nu-

merous kitchen middens that dot the coast of south and west Connemara. Some of these middens or ancient rubbish heaps are extremely rich in artefacts. A 6,000 year old mace head was found in one on Omey Island some years ago and a range of bronze and bone artefacts are known from the coastal middens of Truska, Mannin and Gorteen near Ballyconneely and Roundstone. Lesser-known midden sites are known from the shore of Caorán na gCearc Teas (the moorland hill of the hens), known locally as Toit Chonáin (Conáin’s help-


ing of shellfish) and a very degraded example can be seen in An Caorán Beg (the small moorland hill) in Carraroe. Tese middens typically consist of layers of burnt shell, bone and stone with occasional traces of larger structures such as house foundations and walls. In 1837, George Petrie, a famous 19th century Antiquarian, described an ancient village being un- covered by sand blowing at Dogs Bay, Roundstone, only for it to be covered again the next day. No definite trace of this fabled settlement has been seen since but erosion has been extensive in the intervening century and a half has produced a large number of archaeological sites with a wide range of dates.

Large middens, many being rapidly eroded in the severe wintry and windy weather of recent years, can be seen on Inishlacken, Mainis and Finis Islands. On Inis Treabhair a harbour on the deep bay in the middle of the island, on the north side, is known as Caladh na Sliogán, (harbour of the seashells). Large midden sites are also known from Inís Oirr and from Barr na Coise on Inis Mór. Tere are other middens along the coastline of Connemara: at Ballyconnelly, Culfin, Omey Island and Dog’s Bay, near the village of Roundstone.

In addition to archaeological research, the work of bota- nists is revealing much about Connemara’s early landscape. Research in the lakes and bogs of Connemara is gradually revealing the traces that these first farmers left on the plant life of Connemara. Tey reveal low levels of population

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