Neolithic

(New, or Late, Stone Age)

(c. 4600 BC – 2300 BC)


SETTLEMENT AND HOUSING

Ulster History Park reconstructions of early Neolithic rectangular house (c. 4000 BC – 3000 BC) excavated at Ballyglass, Co. Mayo, and early Neolithic square house derived from that discovered at Tankardstown, Co. Limerick.

Ulster History Park reconstruction of later Neolithic house excavated at Lough Gur, Co. Limerick.

 


MEGALITHIC TOMBS

(megalithic; from the Greek mega, large; lithos, stone.)

Brú na Bóinne, Co. Meath; passage tombs, pit circles, henges, cursus, promontory forts, enclosures, standing stones and ancient field systems. Internationally-recognised site of great archaeological significance, particularly for the great passage tombs of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth. Area first settled in early Neolithic, c. 3800 BC - 3400 BC, passage tombs date from between 3300 BC to 2900 BC. By 2500 BC the tombs were no longer in use, the evidence indicates subsequent occupation by "Beaker" culture. The winter solstice sunrise each year illuminates the passage and decorated end alcove of Newgrange for five days each December (booked up for years to come!). Incidentally the winter solstice sunset illuminates the passageway of the similar and probably contemporary passage tomb at Skara Brae in Orkney suggesting, perhaps, that they were in some way ritually linked or at least both represent aspects of the same religious beliefs. The site is under the care of the Heritage Service and the Office of Public Works. The excellent visitor centre and Newgrange passage tomb are open throughout the year, Knowth from May to October, Dowth is currently closed to the public. Access to the tombs is only via tours from the visitor centre. Admission charges from 5 to 10 Euros. This site is the most popular visitor's centre in Ireland, get there early in the day as there is no pre-booking, tours are on a first-come first-served basis and are each day's tours, in summer, are often full by lunch time. Nevertheless, it is very well worth the effort! Make sure you don't miss the exhibition, audio-visual display and the full-scale replica of the Newgrange passage. The site is well signposted from Slane and Drogheda. Phone: +353 41 988 0300 or +353 41 982 4488.

Access into the tombs is via steps and the passages themselves are extremely confined.

The reconstructed passage tomb at Newgrange. During the winter solstice the rising sun shines through the roof box above the entrance to illuminate the alcove at the end of the gallery.

The decorated entrance stone, the roof box is visible above. Originally the white facing stone would have continued right to the entrance which was closed by the large stone (orthostat) now placed to one side.

The decorated kerbstone at the opposite side to the gallery entrance.

The restored passage tombs of Knowth.

 

The Mound of the Hostages, Hill of Tara, Co. Meath. Passage tomb dated to about 2000 BC, subsequently reused in the Bronze Age for high status burials.The site is under the care of the Heritage Service and the Office of Public Works. The Hill of Tara is an open site with easy access from the road throughout the year. A 19th century Anglican church nearby is used as a visitor's centre from May to October and provides a video show together with information leaflets and booklets. Phone (May-October) +353 41 982 4488.

 

Ulster History Park reconstruction of a typical early Neolithic (c. 4000 – 3500 BC) Court Tomb.

Ulster History Park reconstruction of a typical early Neolithic (c. 4000 – 3500 BC) Portal Tomb.

 

Legananny Dolmen, the remains of a chambered grave, near Dromara, Co. Down. Access is from the Finis to Rathfriland road that climbs the western shoulders of Slieve Croob. The route is signposted.

 

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetary, Co Sligo; passage tombs, cairns, stone circles, megalithic structures and other prehistoric remains. Dating from c. 3,000 BC, this is the largest assembly of neolithic sepulchral structures in Ireland. The whole site stretches over many acres and is filled with megalithic remains, well worth a visit! Miosgán Méadhba (Queen Maeve's Grave), an early neolithic stone cairn predating Newgrange by about 700 years (ie. c 3,200 BC) is visible on nearby Cnoc na Riabh hilltop. The site is under the care of the Heritage Service and the Office of Public Works. There is a visitors' centre with an exhibition. Map reference: 663337, map 16. Phone: +353 71 61534; open: May - September, daily, 09.30 - 18.30, admission charge.

Excavated passage tomb with Queen Maeve's Grave, a stone cairn just visible on the hilltop.

Typical remains of passage tomb(s).

Part of one of the many stone circles on the site.

 

Ulster History Park reconstruction of a typical late Neolithic/early Bronze Age (c. 3000 – c. 1500 BC) Wedge Tomb.

 


STANDING STONES

Ulster History Park reconstruction of a typical Neolithic Stone Circle.

Stone circle at Carrowmore megalithic cemetary, Co. Sligo.