Neolithic Culture in Ireland

The Erection of Megalithic Tombs


Essay, 2009

18 Pages, Grade: 1,7


Free online reading

Table of Contents

Abstract

List of Illustrations

1 Introduction
1.1 Research Question
1.2 Objectives and Limitations

2 The erectors of the Megaliths in Ireland
2.1 Life before Neolithic
2.2 Characteristics of the Society

3 Megalithic Tombs
3.1 The Idea of Erecting Megalithic
3.2 Classification and Chronology of Megalithic Tombs

4 The Erection in Practice
4.1 Basic Information about Knowth
4.2 Materials
4.3 Quarrying of Stones
4.4 Transporting the Stones
4.5 Construction

5 Conclusion

Bibliography

Abstract

Around 6000 years ago the people in Ireland came up with the idea to build tombs for their deceased members of their tribe. What they have built changed the Irish world forever and can still be marveled today.

First of all the question about the origin and the society of these people will be answered. The next chapter will explain the reasons for the erection of the tombs. Incidentally it is questioned whether the tombs were more than just graves or not.

After a classification of four different types of the tombs the last chapter is followed. This is about the possibilities of erecting a tomb. Therefore the example of the passage tomb `Knowth' is used. Imagine transporting stones with a weight over tons in a rough area over a distance of several kilometers without the technology of today.

At the end of the present essay it should be clear, that the tombs are just more than stones. They are a precious heritage and make us speechless.

List of Illustrations

FIGURE 1 COURT TOMB, CREEVYKEEL, COUNTY SLIGO

FIGURE 2 PORTAL TOMB, KILMOGUE, CO. KILKENNY

FIGURE 3 PASSAGE TOMB, KNOWTH, CO. MEATH

FIGURE 4 WEDGE TOMB, CARROWCONEEN, COUNTY MAYO

FIGURE 5 CHRONOLOGY OF MEGALITHIC TOMBS IN IRELAND

FIGURE 6 GROUND PLAN OF KNOWTH

FIGURE 7 EASTERN PASSAGE AT KNOWTH

FIGURE 8 EXAMPLE OF SHIFTING LARGE STONES, PARKNABINNIA

1 Introduction

1.1 Research Question

Latest estimations show the presence of humans on earth for more than approximately 1.7 million years.1 In all likelihood, Ireland was one of the last places in Europe to be colonized approx. 9000 years ago.2 From the beginning of the colonization of Ireland until today an enormous number of marks have been left by different settlers.

During the Neolithic Age members of tribes arrived at Ireland and changed its landscape forever.3 They chose proper stones and towed them together to erect "Ireland’s first megalithic tomb”4.

Nobody knows exactly which tomb really was the first one, but over 1600 megalithic tombs were built in Ireland by the Neolithic settlers in a period from approx. 4000 BC to 2000 BC. At the beginning of the Early Bronze Age (approx. 1500 BC) the construction of the tombs stopped and the knowledge of the actual meaning of the buildings was lost.5

However most of the tombs still stand and talk to us today. In the last decades and years archaeologists discovered a lot of megalithic tombs and built up different theories.

How did the settlers build these extraordinary megalithic tombs? Instead of one simple answer a wide spread of interesting explanations exist6. For a better understanding it is quite useful to investigate who the erectors of these big sized megalith tombs were and why they built them.

1.2 Objectives and Limitations

The main objective of the present essay is to offer a basic understanding about the construction of megalithic tombs during the Neolithic culture in Ireland.

First of all a general overview about the erectors of the tombs is given. After a closer look to the motivations to build the tombs a categorizing is followed. The last chapter is about the construction of the megalithic, whereas this is explained by the example of the passage tomb `Knowth'.

It's not possible to cover every aspect of the megalithic tombs in the present essay. Especially grave goods, inscriptions or a detailed look to the religion will not be reflected in this essay.

2 The erectors of the Megaliths in Ireland

For a better understanding of the present essay a short review about the Neolithic is given. The time dates used in the paper are not binding and purely indicative. The dates are differing depending on the kind of literature you are using.

2.1 Life before Neolithic

There was a world before the Neolithic in Ireland.

After the end of the Ice Age at approx. 15000 BC the first settlers arrived at Britain at the early beginning of the Mesolithic (greek: `mesos' means `middle', `lithos' means `stone').7 This part of the Stone Age lasted from 7000 BC to 4000 BC8. These earliest settlers were fishermen and "animal-hunters and fruit-gatherers"9.

They bore a nomadic life and moved along Ireland to take benefits of seasonal resources. They properly believed in spirits, which lived in the surrounding nature e.g. mountains, springs and rivers. In comparison to the Neolithic in Mesolithic it's difficult to find evidence for an extensive treatment of the dead. Recent researches detected some bones close to a habitation site, but nothing like a megalithic tomb.10

2.2 Characteristics of the Society

At approx. 4000 BC the Mesolithic has been slowly replaced by the Neolithic (greek: `neo' means `new, `lithos' means `stone'). The technique of farming was invented in the Middle East and reached Ireland through the arrival of new immigrants.11 The origin of the immigrants could be either Britain or Spain and France. However, they imported both their own animals and cereals.12 An evidence for their early presence in Ireland is given by the discovery of bones of domestic animals at the Neolithic sites Ringneill Quay, County Down around 3400 BC.13

Along with the farming (agriculture) a lot of other dramatic changes took place in Ireland. Instead of living in small bands Neolithic tribes started to live in communities14. They constructed wooden houses (e.g. Logh Gur, County Limerick) and set enclosures and fields. The enclosures consisted of stones and formed a protection for the cattle15. To get enough space for the farming and cattle the native forest was cleared. Therefore axes were needed, which were produced out of different kinds of stone16. Porcellanite was used in one of the most famous manufacturing facilities called Tievebulliagh in County Antrim.17

[...]


1 Duffy 2005:11

2 Duffy 2005:11; www.rte.ie/tv/secretsofthestones/watch.html, (Dec. 1st, 2009)

3 Jones 2007:X

4 Jones 2007:X

5 Jones 2007:X and 15

6 Jones 2007:X and 15

7 Wallace 1986:5; Duffy 2005:15

8 ÓLaoire 2009:10 of Mesolithic; Jones 2007:21

9 Duffy 2005:15

10 Wallace 1986:5; Jones 2007:21

11 www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O245-NeolithicIreland.html, (Dec. 1st, 2009)

12 6 Laoire 2009:5 of Neolithic; Flanagan 2000:33

13 de Breffny 1980:12

14 Duffy 2005:15

15 Flanagan 2000:31-32

16 Moody and Martin 1994:35

17 Flanagan 2000:34

18 of 18 pages

Details

Title
Neolithic Culture in Ireland
Subtitle
The Erection of Megalithic Tombs
Grade
1,7
Author
Year
2009
Pages
18
Catalog Number
V142802
ISBN (Book)
9783640530052
File size
840 KB
Language
English
Notes
Tags
Ireland, Culture, Knowth, Megalithic, Megalith, Tombs, Stones, Neolithic, Construction, Erecting, Classification of tombs, Transporting, Megalithic Society
Quote paper
Christoph-Daniel Teusch (Author), 2009, Neolithic Culture in Ireland , Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/142802

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