It is generally agreed that Neolithic Ireland lasted from around 4000 BC until 2400 BC and was most certainly a period of change. Archaeologists identified that forests were starting to be cleared and there were signs of agricultural practice and a sense of some basic form of settlement.
The Introduction of Crops to IrelandThere is also some evidence that cereal crops had started to be grown and this is essentially where the Mesolithic man became what is now known as the Neolithic man. They did still hunt but were not completely dependent on that as a source for food. They would also have collected berries and nuts along with fish and so they would have had a more complete diet. In summary it was probably the first arrival of some type of farming community to Ireland.
Pottery and Crafts Come to IrelandNeolithic Ireland also introduced the first signs of art and creativity with pottery, jewellry and the decoration became more intricate as the Neolithic age progressed. Their houses were made of wood and not much is left though some examples have been found buried under bog land.
One of these is at Ballynagilly in County Tyrone and a square shape was found indicating that land had been cleared. The houses found showed oak planks set into a trench and holes in these that may have been for support posts. A central hearth was found along with pottery, arrow heads and some charred grains of wheat.
The houses would have been more permanent than those of Mesolithic times and would have been more carefully positioned to be closer to water, land where cattle could graze and where there would be a plentiful supply of wood for building.
Stone Axes Found in IrelandIrish polished stone axes have been found, which signifies the archetypal tool of this neolithic age. In fact over 18,000 of these have been found and more than half of these were made from a blue-grey stone called porcellanite found at Cushendall. Many of these axes have also been found in Scotland and England. Other neolithic sites have been found in Kildare and at the Ceide fields near Ballycastle in County Mayo.
There a network of fields has recently been discovered under a very deep bog. Here a cluster of houses were found surrounding a larger communal house. The houses were rectangular in shape with large tree trunks sunk into the ground and branches were used for the walls which were then covered in mud. Evidence does show that people did their cooking inside so some type of hole would have been made to allow the exit of smoke.
There are other constructions attributed to Neolithic Ireland. These neolithic people left signs behind such as a passage grave found in Newgrange in County Meath. The tomb is over 36 feet high and has a diameter of over 280 feet, and clearly the work of a well disciplined people is even older than the great pyramids of Egypt.
Other monuments have been found nearby at Newgrange, Knowth, Dowth, Fourknocks, Tara and Loughcrew giving supporting evidence that a major settlement had taken place in the Boyne Valley. Indications also show that these people had some interest in astronomy as a small opening in the Newgrange tomb allowed sunlight to illuminate the central chamber on the winter solstice, and in the case of Loughcrew the equinox sunrise.
The Newgrange tomb is dated at around 3200 BC pre-dates Stonehenge by some 1,000 years. It is likely that given the splendour of these structures that they would have been used for some ceremonial, spiritual and/or astrological importance, but there is a lot of debate about their actual purpose.
Looking back on these times it is difficult to make definite assumptions as to which each “find” is directly linked to which age, but for certain each age brought with it new and improving social conditions and developments for better living during the neolithic period in Ireland. I would now recommend that you read about the Mesolithic Ireland