Ancient Ireland

Ancient Ireland

1) The Mesolithic Period (middle Stone Age 7000 BC).

First settlers

Evidence: Mount Sandal in Derry.

Houses: circular, wooden frame tied at top, covered with hides grass or bushes.

Food: nomadic hunter-gatherers (wild boar, duck, deer, fish, berries). Cooked on a spit.

Clothes: hides cleaned with stone scrapers and sewn together with bone needles.

Tools and Weapons: flint stone, axes, spears, knives and scrapers.

2) The Neolithic Period (new Stone Age 4000 BC).

First farmers arrived by dugout canoe.

Evidence: Lough Gur in Limerick, Ceide Fields in Mayo and the Boyne Valley.

Houses: rectangular, posts, wattle and daub, thatched roof, hearth inside and hole for chimney in roof.

Food: farming and hunting and gathering.

Farm animals were cattle, pigs, sheep and goats.

Mattock and wooden plough in light upland soil to grow wheat and barley.

Grain ground on a saddle-stone.

Food cooked on a spit.

Clothes: same as Mesolithic.

Tools and weapons: flint stone, axes, spears, knives and scrapers. Now they are polished. Pottery is used for storing food and in burials.

Burial Customs and Religion.

Megaliths. Usually cremated and ashes put in pots inside the following:

Court Cairns (northern half, A shaped, court for ceremonies, all covered in stones).

Portal Dolmens (covered in stones, how did they lift capstone).

Passage Tombs (Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth). Cross shaped, 80 metres in diameter (Newgrange), corbelled roof, carved kerbstones, entrance stone, roof box.

3) The Bronze Age (2000 BC).

Copper Mount Gabriel in Cork. Tin Cornwall.

How did they get copper from rock?

Houses: circular, posts, wattle and daub, thatch, hearth inside and hole in roof. Ditch and fence around houses.

Food: same as Neolithic but fulachta fiadh used as well as spits and copper cauldrons.

Tools and weapons: bronze, sickles, spades axes, spears, swords.

Arts and crafts: copper and gold jewellery. Lunulae and torcs (twisted gold), fasteners, collars, bracelets and necklaces.

Burial customs and religion: wedge tombs, cist graves, stone circles (may be linked to sun’s movements), galláns (standing stones). Buried in crouched position with grave goods (afterlife). Some cremated, ashes in pots.

4) The Iron Age and the Celts (by 300 BC iron had taken over)

Evidence: Romans, Halstatt, La Tene, Christian writings and archaeological evidence.

Houses: ring-forts (raths and cashels), Crannógs (well-off?).

Hill-forts (Tara) and promontory forts (Dun Aengus). Ceremonial. Chevaux de frise

Houses built in same way as Bronze Age.

Souterrains (escape and cool food)

Family: described below in order of importance.

or Taoiseach ruled a Tuath and were appointed by the Derbfine. Fosterage in use.

The Nobles were made up of the warriors and the Aosdána. Aosdána were Brehons, Filí, Druids and craftsmen.

Farmers

Commoners or Slaves (captured from other tribes)

Food: Mainly cattle but also sheep and pigs. Dairy products. Wheat (bread), oats (porridge) and barley (ale). Rotary quern. Spit and fulachta fiadh still used and also stone ovens.

Feasting important. Poems, stories, music, ficheall (chess) baire (hurling). Hero’s portion.

Clothes: wool spun and woven. Mantle.

Tools and weapons: iron smelting. Bronze and gold still use for ornaments.

Arts and crafts: Lá Tene (Switzerland), Ogham stones.

Burial customs and Religion: Lug, Bridget. Cremated and ashes put in pits or put in cist graves with a mound of stones (cairn) on top. Grave-goods included.

5) Early Christian Ireland. (Early 400s AD)

First arrived in the south-east. Some may have been slaves. Palladius sent as bishop. Patrick best known. The story of Patrick. Most Celts were Christian by 600. Celtic life continued as before but druids lost power.

Monasteries:

Remote areas (Skellig Michael, Glendalough). Round towers (2 used). Beehive cells (clocháns). Scriptorium (Book of Kells, Cathach) manuscripts on parchment or vellum.

Monks worked in fields. Attacks by other clans, other monasteries and Vikings.

Arts and crafts:

Metalwork. Filigree (Ardagh and Derrynaflan chalices, Tara brooch)

High crosses (Muireadeach’s Cross in Monasterboice)

Irish monks abroad:

‘Island of saints and scholars’ Columcille in Iona, Columbanus in Bobbio Italy.

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