The Neolithic

In Ireland the adoption of agriculture, the start of the Neolithic is currently dated to around 4000 BC. In a 2011 paper, 'Westward Ho!: The Spread of Agriculture from Central Europe to the Atlantic'(Current Anthropology 52.S4 (2011)) Peter Rowley-Conwy suggested that improved excavation and dating everywhere in Europe has put migrationism firmly back on the agenda as an explanation for what now appears to have been a rapid spread of agriculture in Ireland and the UK. There appears to be very little evidence for a transitional economy. For example in North County Mayo, particularly in Belderrig where late Mesolithic and relatively early Neolithic sites in close proximity have been excavated, no significant evidence for the transition has been reported. In December 2015, a paper widely cited by the media 'Neolithic and Bronze Age migration to Ireland and establishment of the insular Atlantic genome' (Cassidy, Martiniano, Murphy, Teasdale, Mallory, Hartwell, Bradley. PNAS. 2015.) was published. One of their findings from DNA research relates to the first complete genome obtained from an Neolithic individual in Ireland. Teh individual is female, from a Megalicthic burial from Ballynahatty, Co.Down. The genome recovered is of predominantely Near Eastern origin which supports the theory of migration of early farmers to Ireland from Europe.

The Neolithic in Ireland was to last until around 2500 BC. The arrival of Neolithic sees the introduction of domesticated animals, clearance of forests for agriculture and a more settled lifestyle. Use of stone as the main material for tools which include flint knives, scrapers, arrow heads and polished stone axes continues but the Neolithic also sees the introduction of pottery to Ireland.The Ceide Fields in North County Mayo is a fossilised Neolithic landscape preserved beneath blanket bog which suggests that in this area a pastoral economy predominated supported by some tillage. New research is suggesting that Dairy farming may have been a significant element of Neolithic agriculture.

The main visible surviving remains of the Neolithic in the landscape are ritual monuments such as large circular henges, and the Megalithic tombs . These include Portal and Court tombs generally associated with the early Neolithic. This was followed by the era of the the Passage tomb construction. The construction and use of Wedge tombs straddles the later Neolithic and continues into the Bronze Age.

Recent excavations during the Celtic tiger era of develeopment have greatly increased the number of known sites from this period.

Around 2500 BC sees the transition to the Bronze Age with the adoption of the metal tools in Ireland.

The Archaeology of the Donabate/Portrane Peninsula - Evidence for the Neolithic


Neolithic Sites Visited

Seefin Passage Tomb Seefin Passage tomb

Fourknocks Passage Tomb Fourknocks Passage tomb

Slieve Gullion Passage tomb Slieve Gullion Passage tomb

Dowth Henge Dowth Henge

Last Updated , Jan 2016