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21 September 2004
5,700-year-old house found at bypass site

The archaeological ghost of a house a thousand years older than the earliest Egyptian pyramid have been discovered in Co Cork (Ireland). Evidence of the dwelling, which has been carbon-dated as being built in 3700 BCE, was unearthed during work on the Ä170 million Ballincollig bypass. Archaeologists revealed that 33 other sites of historic importance were identified during work on the road. These include the discovery of an early Bronze Age enclosed settlement, dating back to 2450 BCE, which was unearthed in Curraheen.
     Project archaeologist Ken Hanley said the oldest dwelling, which dates back to the early Neolithic period, was discovered near the EMC plant. "It would have originally been walled with split timber planking with support posts and may have been roofed with thatch or sod. The structure would have housed a single family unit of perhaps six to 10 people," Mr Hanley said. Archaeologists believe the house represented a transition from hunter-gatherer type existence to an early farming society.
     The discovery at Curraheen may be 1,250 years younger but it is even more impressive. "Itís comprised of two nearly conjoining enclosures 20 metres south of a stream and on a raised area surrounded by marginal bog," Mr Hanley said. Although badly damaged in recent years, evidence of wattle houses and a livestock pen were discovered.
     A number of Bronze Age cremation pits were discovered along the route and pieces of ancient pottery were unearthed. Cooking sites ranging in age from 1800 BCE to 800 BCE were also identified. Other excavations revealed an Iron Age round house dating back to 320BC. "The discovery was made all the more exciting owing to the scarcity of excavated Iron Age remains in County Cork. The house would have been constructed using post and wattle walls, thickened with mud and it would have had a thatched roof," Mr Hanley said.
     All the archaeological sites have now been covered over but post-excavation analysis is continuing. The National Roads Authority proposes to publish all the results next year.

Source: Irish Examiner (21 September 2004)

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