For the first 5000 years after their arrival in Ireland, the inhabitants used tools and weapons made from stone, wood and bone. The earliest settlers came to an island covered with trees (pine, birch, hazel and willow). There was an abundance of wild animals for food, and from archaeological excavations, we know that they lived almost entirely by hunting. Their “houses” would have been something like that above (based on a site excavated in Mount Sandel in Co. Down).
They used polished stone axes to clear areas of trees, to prepare them for grazing and for crops. They used the timber to build houses and fences to prevent their animals from predators such as wolves. Their houses were made of timber, and insulated with clay (wattle and daub). They had no chimney, and so were smoky, and dark.
The picture above shows a farmhouse on the left, and a shelter for animals on the right. Their field is in the foreground. It is based on a type of dwelling found at Lough Gur in County Limerick.The construction of Portal Tombs (Dolmens), such as the one on the right, during the Neolithic period, points to a prosperous society with a hierarchical structure. These tombs would not have been intended for ordinary people.
There have been 160 portal tombs found in Ireland, and they also occur in Western Britain. Portal tombs usually face East, are often uphill and near water. It appears that the people may have been dead for many years before being put in the tomb.
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