The Neolithic in Ireland

par Guide Irlande

The Neolithic period in Ireland is a decisive period: the population discovers agriculture, pottery, erects megalithic tombs and uses more and more advanced stone tools. These evolutions allow them to explode demographically and to reach between 100 000 and 2000 individuals… Here is a glimpse of these major evolutions, which have gradually drawn the image of an Ireland now invaded by Neolithic megaliths…

Neolithic history in Ireland

The Discovery of Agriculture and Pottery

Agriculture was born around 3500/3000 B.C. in Ireland. Indeed, the Neolithic revolution represented by agriculture led to a considerable increase in population in the Middle East, which gradually spread to Europe as well as to Ireland . The knowledge is thus transmitted to a handful of farmers who have come to invest in Ireland.

The inhabitants then discovered the art of cultivating the land, as well as raising sheep, goats and cattle. The Irish land, now fertile, is then worked: cereals are planted, while developing real fields, protected by dry stone walls…

One of the most famous fields of the Neolithic period is the one discovered at Céide Fields in Mayo County, under a thick layer of peat. The latter is gigantic, and is arranged in the form of a multitude of fields connected to each other and delimited by stone walls… Wheat and barley were cultivated here between 3500 and 3000 BC.

Beyond the agricultural revolution, the population also discovered pottery. This one is discovered at the same period as agriculture, and already allows to make crockery. Many bowls will be found in Limerick and Ulster

The Megaliths

The Neolithic is also a period particularly marked by the sudden appearance of megalithic monuments (from the Greek megos, large, and lithos, stone) erected for the dead throughout the island (more than 1,200 sites have been recorded). This proliferation is incredibly dense, and its remains are still very much present in Ireland today (they attract several thousand tourists every year).

Its megaliths fall into 3 distinct categories:

  • The Dolmens : these are arranged in the form of megaliths supporting a large stone table, forming a chamber…
  • The Cairns: this is a word of Irish origin and can refer to a stone covering of megalithic burials
  • Tumulus: a mound (mound of earth and stone) raised above a burial site.

These 3 categories of megaliths have in common that they were above all religious places in the eyes of the population of the time. All of them are used as tombs: human remains, cremated or not, have been found, as well as offerings, such as pottery, arrowheads or axes…


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