The foundations of a 5,700-year-old Neolithic house, along with evidence of Bronze Age burials and Iron Age smelting have been discovered by archaeologists in Co Cork. 

Eight separate excavations were carried out after the county council undertook two road alignment projects on the N73, close to the villages of Shanballymore and Kildorrery.

On one of the sites, archaeologists discovered the foundations of a Neolithic house dating back to approximately 3,700 BC, which is believed to have formed part of a small settlement founded by early farmers.

Eight separate excavations were carried out after the county council undertook two road realignment projects on the N73 (main road between Mallow and Mitchelstown) close to the villages of Shanballymore and Kildorrery. Credit: Transport Infrastructure Ireland

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They were likely to have been amongst the first farming families to inhabit the area.

As well as finding pottery, stone tools and grain from the same period – some 5700 years ago – at the site, archaeologists also found evidence of iron smelting.  Neolithic settlers were first people in Ireland to produce pottery and use stone tools, examples of which were found at the site. It’s also believed that farming knowledge would only have begun in the country some 200 years before this community was founded.

Archaeologists discovered stone tools and pottery seemingly hidden in holes during the Middle Neolithic era. They believe this was some kind of ritual, perhaps associated with human burials, or with offering gifts to gods.

The Irish Examiner reports that “a number of charcoal pits were also discovered of varying ages at some of the sites in the townland of Waterdyke. Charcoal was needed to increase heat in the smelting process for the production of Iron. These sites were dated from 266AD through to 1214AD.”

This suggests that smitheys were set up to look after passing trade along the route, such as providing horseshoes, as well as providing fetal tools to the farming population.

 

Evidence of iron smelting was also found at the townland of Annakiska South. Credit: Transport Infrastructure Ireland

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Neolithic settlers were also the first people in Ireland to produce pottery and used distinctive stone tools. Credit: Transport Infrastructure Ireland

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The results of the archaeologists’ work have been published in an online story map by Cork County Council, in conjunction with TII (Transport Infrastructure Ireland)