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before 4000 B.C. and that the high point of Neolithic life in the Cleggan area seems to have been over a 200 year period concentrated around 4000 B.C.

Te emerging picture is in sharp contrast to an older image of Connemara as a backwater. It was once held that the area contained but few and ‘morphologically retarded’ prehistoric monuments but over the last two decades survey work has re- vealed an entirely different picture. For example, the number of known Neolithic tombs has more than trebled from 11 to 38. Tey are concentrated along the shallow valleys of north and west Connemara. Tis pattern broadly coincides with areas of glacial drift and rock types with a relatively high base content. Tese areas doubtlessly contained the best soils in the Neolithic era, as they still do today.

In general, the four main types of tomb are found on val- ley-bottoms or along the slopes often next to outcrops of metamorphosed limestone. Most are found close to sources of water, sea, lake or stream, but Connemara’s distinctive geography makes this inevitable. Only three of them are more than 300 feet from sea level. Te evidence suggests that people tended to be widely dispersed but there are large ‘clusters’ of sites around the Ballynew, Streamstown and Renvyle areas. Te discovery of two impressive court tombs in the Connemara National Park and of a small megalith in a remote mountain glen overlooking Killary Harbour (behind Leenane Hotel) strongly suggest that the broad mountain


valleys of central and north Connemara were also extensively settled in the Neolithic.

Tere are a great variety of types of Connemara tombs and they tend to be quite simple. Tey also have a tendency to be found in groups. Tis suggests, to the author at least, that they represent a variety of responses by local people to the need they felt to build a ‘house for the dead’, rather than hav- ing been made by different groups at different times without any contact with one another. It is possible that the simple chambered tombs were among the earliest, with the other more complicated examples coming later but it is also quite possible that the more complicated court and portal tombs were built at the same time, during the earlier Neolithic and represented differences in wealth, status or even religion.

Te earliest indications of early Neolithic activity in Connemara come from a series of pollen diagrams from south and west Connemara. Te most important of these comes from Lough Sheeauns near Cleggan. Te pollen evi- dence suggests that the farming economy was based around raising livestock and that comparatively few crops were grown. Tis has been the pattern for most of recorded his- tory; Connemara has poor soil, and this seems to have been the case in prehistory as well. In any case, areas close to the sea, with its rich fish resources, would have been far less de- pendent on the land for survival than their landlocked cous- ins elsewhere in Ireland. Around 2800 B.C. the population

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