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7 June 2009
Galway may have had 'major' ancient settlement

A Connemara archaeologist says that the recent discovery of two stone axes in Galway city and county points to a 'major' hunter-gatherer presence on the Corrib catchment up to 9,000 years ago. The axes were found in Ballybane and in the garden of a private house in Clifden, Co Galway (Ireland), and are the latest in a number of significant finds recorded by archaeologist Michael Gibbons in the last couple of months. The Clifden axe was unearthed by Velta Conneely in her garden - the second such axe she has discovered there in eight years, Mr Gibbons noted.
     Mr Gibbons has recently recorded a large court tomb overlooking Streamstown Bay in Connemara, where the earliest evidence for human settlement in west Connemara has been unearthed. He has also located two previously unmapped stone forts and a fulacht fiadh, or ancient cooking place, between Leenane and Croagh Patrick; a stone fort near Ballynahinch and an oyster midden at Ballynakill bay, both in Co Galway; a cashel near Casla, Co Galway; and a number of arrowheads on Inishbofin island.
     The Ballybane green stone axe is "an important find from the Corrib catchment area and is one of a whole series of axes that have been discovered over the years in and around lower Lough Corrib and the Corrib river itself," said Mr Gibbons. Dating of the axes is both mesolithic and neolithic, he said. "It is clear that there was a major mesolithic [hunter-gatherer] presence on the Corrib catchment between 6,000 and 9,000 years ago," he said. "It makes perfect sense, given the range of resources that were accessible from a base camp in or near the present Galway city."
     Resources for the huntergatherer camps would have included migrating salmon, large stocks of eels, and fish, seals and shellfish in and around Galway Bay as far as the Aran Islands, Mr Gibbons said. "The Corrib river system would have provided easy access up-country into the mountains of Connemara and up into the Turlough belt in the limestone land between Cong and Tuam, via the Clare river." A substantial number of axes have already been found at Maree, on the southern flanks of  Galway Bay, and at Indreabhán (Inverin) and Ceathrú Rua (Carraroe) to the west.

Source: The Irish Times (5 June 2009)

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