Searching for the Neolithic Footprint

The principle of leaving an environmental impression on an area is best highlighted by the arrival of the Neolithic. These people transformed Dundalk Bay through massive deforestation and the introduction of farming. The lower south-facing slopes of the Carlingford Mountains represent the Homeland zone where large burial monuments were built and year-round settlements concentrated on crop growing. The Dundalk plains were stripped of many trees in order to feed grass-hungry cattle. On the high uplands of the Carlingford Mountains there was pasture for sheep.


Year-round settlement was clearly seen at Plaster. Here, three Neolithic rectangular houses show farm-based activity in the vicinity of the Proleek Dolmen. The settlement was adjacent to a stream and there were areas of pitting and storage. Huge nearby burial monuments included those at Aghnaskeagh.

Evidence for the seasonal herding of animals was found at Littlemill, Donaghmore and Newtownbalregan. At all of these small sites there was temporary, probably seasonal occupation, repeated for many hundreds of years.

By a combination of arable farming, herding, hunting and gathering the Neolithic peoples found they could easily produce enough food. They could then concentrate on building enormous monuments of earth, wood and stone.


ASI: I thought Neolithic people were farmers?
They were. But Dundalk was teeming with wild THINGS to eat. The woods were full of bear, boar, badger, deer and hares.  The coast provided vast quantities of seafood, birds and their eggs.  Hazel nuts, hawthorn berries, sloes, crab apples, acorns,  mushrooms and blackberries were all collected in autumn. The problem was not so much collecting the food, but storing it for the lean times of winter.