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The Neolithic Period
Transcript of The Neolithic Period
(New Stone Age)
You should understand....
How the arrival of farming changed Ireland.
The life and work of the first farmers and their burial customs.
They used stone axes to clear openings in the forests to create their small farms.
These were the
New Stone Age
They changed the Irish landscape.
Examples of Neolithic sites in Ireland are
Lough Gur, Co. Limerick
Boyne Valley, Co. Meath
Ceide Fields in Co. Mayo.
Neolithic houses were usually rectangular in shape.
Timber poles were driven into the ground and stones were placed around the bottom of the poles to hold them in place.
The walls were built of upright
or else of
wattle and daub.
The roof was
with straw from wheat and barley or with reeds from a river.
Inside the house there was a stone
with a spit built in the centre of the floor.
A hole in the roof above the hearth acted as a chimney.
Neolithic houses were stronger than mesolithic huts because the first farmers built
Work and Food
Ireland's first farmers created small fields surrounded by low walls.
A settlement of this kind can be seen in the Ceide Fields in Co. Mayo.
The farmers used the fields for dairying or for grain growing (tillage).
In the case of grain growing, the farmers tilled the land with mattocks or with wooden ploughs.
They grew wheat and barley, which were used to make bread and porridge. The grain was ground on a saddle stone.
Work and Food
Apart from grain, the people also got food from their animals, for example when pigs were killed in the winter.
They also fished, hunted and gathered berries and hazlenuts (just like mesolithic people did before them).
By this time, red deer had arrived in Ireland and these could be hunted.
Animal skins were still used for clothes, but wool was also spun and woven tomake
Around 4000BC, new people came to Ireland.
They came by boat -
skin covered boats
These people were Ireland's first farmers.
They knew how to grow crops and they had domesticated animals such as cattle, pigs, sheep, goats and dogs.
Since Neolithic people left no written record, we must depend on
at these other sites - as well as
- to tell us about the lifestyle of these people.
Tools and Weapons
The tools and weapons were made of stone - axes, knives, scrapers, arrowheads and spears - but now the stone was polished (or smoothed).
Bone or antler needles were used for stitching hides.
Jewellery, in the form of beads and pendants, was made from stone, wood and bone.
Pottery was an important discovery at the time.
Pottery was made by hand using rings of clay.
The pots were used for cooking, storing food, burials.
Building Megalithic Tombs
The neolithic people built tombs called
to honour their dead.
Megalithic tombs were 'great stone' tombs.
The three main types were:
Court Cairns had a semi circular (or open space) in front with an entrance leading into a
a burial chamber
Large upright stones formed the entrance.
The passage and chamber were covered by a 'cairn' or mound of smaller stones.
Archaeologists think that the court was used for religious ceremonies and cremation.
The ashes of the bodies were placed in pots in the burial chamber which had a corbelled roof.
A corbelled roof was built by placing flat stones one on top of the other, with one on top placed slightly in front of the other, until the space was closed by one stone.
In the case of portal dolmens, three large upright stones supported a very large capstone, or dolmen. Many of these capstones were 40 tonnes in weight.
Two large upright stones acted as portals, or door supports, while the third stone was at the back.
The tombs were partly or fully covered by smaller stones, leaving the entrance open.
Bodies were cremated and placed in pots inside the chamber.
Passage tombs or graves are the most impressive of all the megalithic tombs.
Passage tombs get their name from a long passage leading from the entrance to a burial chamber inside.
Passage tombs can be found grouped together in cemeteries.
The most famous of the passage graves are those in the Boyne Valley in Co. Meath, at Newgrange, Dowth and Knowth.
The largest cemetery of megalithic tombs is Carrowmore in Co. Sligo with 30 surviving tombs.
Newgrange Passage Tomb