Tuesday, May 6, 2014

#Ireland #History and #Myths: Neolithic Irish Create Ceide Fields

Welcome back to my series on Ireland's History and Myths. Ireland entered the Neolithic Age between 3900 to 3000 BC when English invaders brought farming to Ireland. One of the first places in Neolithic Ireland to have been farmed is known as Céide Fields. Dated to around 3500 BC, it is considered to be the world's oldest Neolithic site.

Céide Fields is located in Northern Ireland on the cliffs in Mayo County overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. It was discovered during the 1930's when schoolteacher Patrick Caulfield was cutting into the turf to access the peat for fuel. He noticed a pile of uncovered rocks neatly stacked underneath the peat. The school teacher concluded that the stones must have been deliberately placed there by ancient humans due to the their location and their placement.
Forty years later, his son, Dr. Seamus Caulfield, took an interest in the bogs and the stones. Dr. Caulfield surveyed all of the bogs on his family's land and discovered underneath the peat bogs on his father's land laid a stone wall, houses and Mesolithic tombs.
The land had once been home to a thick forest that had laid a thick root system across the land. According to the Irish American Post:

Céide’s farmers cleared the forests from this land for planting, using the timber to build their houses. But this loss of the trees eventually changed the environment. The trees, whose absorbing roots had gradually released rainfall to canopy evaporation, were no longer there. Céide’s annual 240 days of rain left the cleared landscape moister and moister. Nutrients leached away. Plants now held onto their moisture. Cycles of life, death, and decay to the soil were disrupted. Mosses and other plants which thrived on poor soils expanded their range, forming bogland. Over several centuries the farmers were forced out by poor soil, overabundant moisture, and an ever-expanding peat bog – what’s been called a "slow motion Pompeii." This peat bog, however, preserved Céide as an unspoiled archeological site."

Dr. Seamus Caulfield extensively studied the peat bogs of his family's farm using the method shown in this video. 

In 1989, Dr. Caulfield wanted to preserve the archeological research he discovered and draw tourist to the area. With the help of Prof. Martin Downes along with a local committee, he created the Center at Céide. The Center was used to house all of the site's research. In 1993, he opened the Céide Fields Interpretive Center. The award winning interpretive center is easily distinguished by its pyramid shape and was opened by the Office of Public Works.   

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