|11 February 2004
Ancient remains found in Northern Ireland
Archaeologists working at the site of a new supermarket in Ballymoney (co. Antrim, Northern Ireland) have found remains which date back to 7000 BCE. Experts commissioned by Tesco to examine the site were hoping to find evidence of a late medieval castle, but they were amazed when they unearthed remains which date back some 9,000 years. Fragments of clay pottery and flints have been found in what is thought to be the remnants of an ancient settlement from the Neolithic period. Scientists also uncovered a complete axehead and evidence of a possible structure.
Peter Bowen, the head archaeologist on the site, claims the majority of the finds date back to about 3000 BCE, but he believes some of their discoveries may even predate that by a further 4000 years, to 7000 BCE. "It is possible that this site has produced these finds as it as at the foot of higher ground, which may have provided shelter and security,'' he said. "It is also close to a river, which could have provided fish and fresh water for settlers and any animals they may have kept.''
Work on the new £9 million store is still on track for a summer opening but Mr Bowen has welcomed the opportunity to excavate the site before it is covered over. "In some ways, it's strange that we have had the opportunity to find out more about the history of this area because a new supermarket is being built, but that's how history happens - through change.''
Ross Campbell, Tesco's development manager, admitted this is the first occasion that anything significant has been discovered at one of their Northern Ireland sites. "By working closely with both our own archaeologists and those from the Environment and Heritage Service, we have been able to develop an appropriate preservation plan so that these items will remain safe for many more years to come,'' he said.
Sources: Belfast Telegraph, ic NorthernIreland.co.uk (10 February 2004)
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