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Beginnings


standing stones, two possible stone circles, fulachta fiadha (cooking sites) and two mountaintop cairns. Tese will in time help to reshape our ideas about Bronze Age settle- ment and ritual sites both locally and nationally. Indeed, the Connemara group of standing stones, paired and single, together with the stone rows, constitute a major new group- ing of later prehistoric sites in Ireland and they help to close the apparent gap that has existed between the great concen- trations of these sites in central Ulster and in west Cork and Kerry.


Tese sites follow the same pattern as Neolithic burial and settlement sites. Te single stones, paired standing stones and stone rows are located on prominent hilltops and glacial ridges, several at the entrance to valleys; many were intended to be seen from great distances, and others to be easily visible to each other at a local level. Recent excavations indicate that the standing stones were used to mark burials and perhaps had a dual function as boundary markers. Some of them were erected over the cremated remains of individuals together with their grave goods. Te burial of a child (c. 10 years old) was found beneath one of the Connemara sites. Tese Connemara examples are consistently aligned north to south and often differ in height from south to north examples. Many functions have been suggested for them, from bound- ary and route markers, to points from which movement of the stars and planets could be observed, or as places from


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which other important natural and man-made features could be viewed.


Tey undoubtedly formed part of some complex, though elusive, ritual practice. Indeed the Derryinver site, one of the finest in the country, is just one part of a complex ritual landscape which included not only a multi-period and graded alignment but also the remains of a 5 stone circle and a unique pre-bog henge-like enclosure. Te complex is located on a prominent glacial ridge, which is partly enclosed and defined by a series of pre-bog field walls and further down the ridge one of the very few cist burials in Connemara has been identified. Te alignments may have been spectacular outdoor calendars and been part of an elaborate cult relating to the events of the winter solstice. Te alignments were built with granite boulders and carefully quarried blocks of white quartz stone.


Te accurate dating of these monuments is very difficult with or without excavation: however, perhaps they should be seen in the context of renewed farming activity in the latter half of the Bronze Age (circa 1000 B.C.). Te settle- ment areas, complete with houses and fields, are now being discovered, complimenting the burial evidence. In particu- lar the discovery of fulachta fiadha (the cooking places of the Fianna – now known to be Bronze Age cooking sites) indicates a higher population than previously thought. A cluster of fulachta fiadha can be found on the islands around


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