Tree planting in north Sligo unearths 6,000 year old stone tools

Amongst the finds was this late Meso Chert knife.

Sligo Champion

Two Sligo archaeologists who were doing some gardening on a mountain side unearthed 6,000 year old stone tools.

Archaeologists Marion Dowd (ATU Sligo) and James Bonsall (Fourth Dimension Prospection Ltd) were planting trees in a garden on Cope’s Mountain in north Sligo during one of the Covid lockdowns of 2021 when they began discovering prehistoric artefacts in the topsoil.

These items were in a disturbed context and had originated from an archaeological site presumably in the wider environs.

The National Museum of Ireland was immediately contacted.

Overall, Marion and James recovered 22 stone (lithic) tools made from a rock type known as chert. They were sent for analysis to lithic specialist Cian Hogan (CeártaCloch), funded by ATU Sligo.

Cian identified in the assemblage two Late Mesolithic forms, which date to 5500-4000 BC.

Several convex scrapers, flakes and retouched pieces were also recovered. These could date to any time from the Late Mesolithic through to the Neolithic and Bronze Age (5500-700 BC).

The two Late Mesolithic artefacts are particularly important considering the paucity of evidence for hunter-gatherer activities from counties Sligo and Leitrim as a whole. These were everyday tools, similar to knives, and were used for activities such as butchering animal carcasses and/or chopping siliceous plants in north Sligo some 6,000 to 7,500 years ago.

The Mesolithic is the longest period in Irish archaeology, spanning 4000 years from 8000 BC to the beginning of farming around 4000 BC. Mesolithic hunter gatherers lived in small wooden huts or tents and were nomadic, moving between campsites during the year depending on availability of food sources.

Their diet consisted of fish (salmon, eel, tope), wild boar, ducks, eggs, fungi, nuts and berries. The population of Ireland during this period was quite low, and probably no more than 10,000 people.

More on the find can be found in the latest edition of the Sligo Field Club Journal.

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