Earthlore Explorations Historic Overview of Ireland
Early Age Ireland
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Aer Lingus

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Earthlore Ireland: Neolithic Spiral Stone Carvings
Stone carvings at Newgrange

Early Age


Mesolithic Era

7000-6000 BCE
The approximate date of the arrival of initial migratory tribes or hunting parties.

Neolithic Era

4000-3500 BCE
The development of agriculture and the construction of the first megaliths.

3500-3000 BCE
Refinements in agriculture housing construction and
Stoneworks and settlements reach into the southwest, as far as today's Limerick.

3000-2002 BCE
Development of larger stone structures such as passage tombs and the complex ritual sites such as Newgrange and Knowth in Meath.
First metals are formed into tools and weapons.

A continuity of existence remained in me...

Ireland (7000 BCE)

Irish historyWhat is known of the early ages of Irish history has been derived primarily from two sources: Archaeological study and mythological lore. The earliest settlers are believed to have arrived in Ireland between eight and nine thousand years ago. It is about the time when the island would have become fertile after the receding of the polar ice fields. This period is referred to by scholars as the Middle Stone Age or Mesolithic era. It is possible, even likely, that there was migrant habitation previous to this time, although no conclusive remains have survived, distinctive of succeeding settlements. It is important to note, that no extensive excavation efforts have been staged as yet to explore the sites which could possibly date to earlier periods.

Ireland As all information of these first peoples is originated from archeological remains, little is known of their culture. The oldest excavations to date appear primarily in the northeast, not far from the coast. Although the theory is disputed, it would seem from evidence,
Earthlore Explorations Ireland: Poulnabrone dolmen, County Clare
Poulnabrone Dolmen
The Burren, County Clare
that the first settlers arrived from what is now Scotland or the northern tracts of Europe. The island was wealthy in natural resources at this time. Forests were abundant and filled with wildlife as were rivers and streams. It seems plausible that the initial inhabitants were organized hunting parties drawn by this unplundered bounty.

IrelandThe most prominent remains from this period are the many megalithic tombs which populate the countryside. While megaliths are found in several areas of Europe, Ireland possesses the highest concentration of sites. Accepted dating for these structures is between 4,000 and 2001 BCE. There are three primary styles of tombs, the most common were constructed with massive, solid stones consisting of three or four supports and a single cap piece. Larger tombs are also known which were often covered by large earthen mounds. Dating to this same period are the impressive and mysterious tomb chambers at Newgrange, Fourknocks and Creevykeel. There remain many questions about these ancient sites, but it is certain that they were utilized as more than simple burial monuments. There is strong evidence to support the view that they served significantly in the religious rituals of the people who constructed them.

IrelandThe Neolithic period began around 3000 BCE in Ireland. Wooden structures from this era have been excavated in Galway, Tyrone and other counties. Although there are a greater number of
Earthlore Explorations Ireland: Dun Angus - Iron Age Fort Remains
Dun Angus, an Iron age fortification with its back set to the far west cliff of Inishmore.
A certain identification of its builders remains elusive.
personal artifacts to this time, we still know little of the prevailing customs and culture. Around 2001 BCE, a wave of people arrived from origins still disputed and established a high Neolithic society. There is a great wealth of evidence remaining from this period, much of which has derived from explorations of burial mounds. Fine gold work, broach pins and other ornaments have been unearthed throughout the country. It is also within this era that innovations were developed in the style of megalithic tomb construction. Known as Passage tombs, these sites are circular in form and are often situated upon hilltops.

Irish History
The Bronze Age arrived in Ireland around 1500 BCE. Many artifacts from this period can be found today in several Irish museums. While they left no written records of their history, we do know from their craft-work that these were a highly cultured and expressive people. Their weapons of war and tools of industry were incorporated with elaborate designs and artistic motifs. At the height of development, trade was established with ancient Britain and Europe. A stable society and successful industry appears to have lasted for several centuries, at least up till 800-700 BCE.

Where Mythology and History Entwine.

The exists a point in Irish history where what we know of as historical fact meets with and joins the well preserved chronicles of Ireland's mythological lore. Just exactly where that point may be located is no longer possible to accurately determine.
Earthlore Explorations Ireland - Irish Myth

Early Bronze Age

2001-1500 BCE
A strong proliferation of wedge tombs mark the dawn of the Bronze age. Several hundred of these have been identified in the west. These sites are located near ore deposits of copper and silver, which were well mined in this period. A healthy metals industry arises with regular exporting established to Britain and beyond.

Earthlore Explorations Ireland - Irish Monks
The survival of Ireland's ancient lore is due primarily to the efforts of the monks of the middle age monasteries. Unlike the obliteration suffered elsewhere under the church, much of Irish culture was preserved by her scholar scribes.
A significant turning point in Irish history occurred with the arrival of Celtic tribes from Europe. Here again we encounter an era Earthlore Explorations Ireland: Stone Figure Carvingmuch debated by historians. The exact time of when Celts first set foot on Ireland is still uncertain. It is safe to align their ascendancy with the transition between the Bronze and Iron Ages. The tribes of Europe certainly possessed iron before reaching Ireland. If an invasion it was, then the bronze of the native warriors would have been no match for the stronger swords of the Celts. Yet, there is evidence of Celtic influence on late Bronze age designs. The question remains whether the rise of the Celtic population was achieved peacefully, and over a few centuries or more abruptly through conquest.

However their entrance to Ireland occurred, the tall strangers from Europe and Great Britain soon achieved a cooperative truce, and eventually established a new ruling order. The people were divided into many clans or tuatha, in Irish. As certain regions grew these became minor kingdoms with a fair degree of sovereignty. In time, groups of clans would join under a single representative leader, although it would be more than a thousand years before a king of all Ireland would exist. Despite almost nonstop conflicts, a sophisticated society and high culture prospered over the centuries. In the first centuries of the Common Era, the country was divided into five kingdoms - a close approximate to the provinces of today - these were and remain: Connaught, Leinster, Midhe, Munster and Ulster.

Irish Hearth Tale: 'Oisin and Niam'Ireland Content DirectoryEarthlore Ireland News Report: 'Senchasa'

Earthlore Ireland: Artistic Rendering of Iron Age Celtic Swords
Iron age sword,
Nineteenth century rendering.


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    Earthlore Hearth Tale: Oisin and Niam

    Earthlore Explorations Introduction

    IrelandAnother significant turning point in Irish history took place in the middle of the fifth century. In the year 432 AD, tradition holds, Saint Patrick landed in Ireland with several loyal followers. Over the rest of his life Patrick worked to convert the natives to Christianity. He did not however, seek to abolish existing customs. He proposed alterations only where they were in direct conflict with Christian doctrine. The lore surrounding Ireland's patron saint claims him to be a foreign born slave brought over as a boy to herd sheep. As a man, he escapes and returns across the sea to become a servant of God.

    Earthlore Explorations Ireland: Stained Glass Window of Saint Patrick
    Stained glass portrait of Saint Patrick, herald of Christianity in Ireland.

    Irish HistoryOne of the most profound introductions brought by Patrick was the Latin alphabet; for the shadow of the Roman empire had never extended to Ireland. In succeeding years, the craft of the written word would be used by Irish monks to record the great wealth of the countries oral traditions and history.

    IrelandPatrick established monasteries across the country where language and theology could be studied. During the Dark Ages in Europe these monasteries served as sanctuary to many of the continents great scholars and theologians. It was here that the lamp of Latin learning was preserved for the ages. During this age, the great illuminated manuscripts of Ireland were produced. Arguably the finest such work, is The Book of Kells which may still be viewed at Trinity College, Dublin.

    Earthlore Explorations Ireland: The Rock of Cashel Monastary Remains
    Cathedral of St. Patrick on the Rock of Cashel,
    just outside Cashel, county Tipperary

    Irish historyThis age of illumination was brought to an abrupt end by yet another group of invaders. The Vikings, unlike the Romans before them, did not spare Ireland. During the ninth & tenth centuries, waves of Norse warriors ransacked the countryside. The Vikings plundered Earthlore Explorations Ireland - Atistic Rendition of Viking Invaderseverything in sight. The monasteries were favorite targets for their treasures of golden religious ornaments. The Vikings were eventually driven out, but not before making some contributions of their own. Many coastal towns, and most significantly, Dublin, owe their establishment to the invading Norsemen.

    Irish historyEven with the Vikings gone,
    Ireland was not without strife. The country fractured into petty kingdoms as ambitious regional rulers vied for control. In a move aimed at unifying the land, the great warrior Brian Boru assumed the title of High King in the year 1002. But national unity was not to be. Family and clan warfare continued for another one hundred fifty years. King would be King - by sword alone.

    Irish historyIn the midst of one such conflict came an invitation
    which would open a new cycle in history, one which is still unfolding this very day. In 1169, Dermot MacMurrough, King of Leinster, lost his title in conflict. He appealed to Henry II, King of England, for assistance in regaining control. Henry agreed, providing both financial and military support, commencing the history of Anglo-Norman involvement in Ireland.

    The story continues in 'Middle Age Ireland,' which is currently being upgraded. These pages will be fully accessible within the next days.
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