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Martin Brennan 2007
Martin Brennan 2007  
Find may change theory on early man in Ireland
From Dick Hogan in Cork:

Carbon testing of three shell middens found in the Ferriter Cove area of the Dingle peninsula in Co Kerry may reveal that man arrived in the south-west much earlier than 2,000 BC.

If the dating proves positive, Professor Peter Woodman, of University College, Cork, said yesterday existing theories as to how early man first came to Ireland might have to be revised.

Professor Woodman made the discovery while working with a UCC team in the peninsula as part of the Ballyferriter Co-Op archaeological survey. He said yesterday that the three shell middens found by the team showed that early inhabitants ate shellfish and because of the existence of fish bones, had probably developed a means of fishing. There was also evidence that the inhabitants developed a stone tool industry, using stone from volcanic rock in the area known as rhyolite. "It's a bit like cracking a code, if you don't know what people were using, it becomes all the more difficult to know what to look for. This is potentially a find of considerable importance because it may alter the existing theories as to how man came to Ireland in the first place.

It, for instance, we can show that this part of the south-west was occupied early as other parts of the country, then obviously, we will have to think again about the way the first inhabitants entered the country. It is a bit like looking into a black hole with one chink of light.

Until the results of the three separate carbon 14 tests are returned, we won't be in a position to add much more," Professor Woodman said. Fragments from the find will be sent he said, to a research laboratory in Britain and it could be some months before the detailed examination is completed. Professor Woodman said the popular theory was that early man entered Ireland through the north and gradually spread southward. He added that this theory might no longer hold if the tests show that the south-west was inhabited substantially earlier than 2000 BC "the key question is how much earlier." The find coincides with news from the archaeological survey of the dingle peninsula that almost 800 either forgotten or hitherto unknown sites have now been logged by the Ballyferriter Co-Op team.

The team, headed by Ms Judith Cuppage, is expected is complete the survey of the peninsula which cost £100,000, by the end of next year. By then, it is expected that almost 2,000 sites will have been catalogued in the first comprehensive study of this architecturally rich area.

Ms Cuppage said yesterday that the team had already identified megalithic tombs, standing stones, pre-bob field systems, promotory forts, clochans and ring forts. As well, using old reference works. The team of nine has rediscovered some important archaeological sites in the area. For instance, after an old photograph was sent from the United States, the head master of the local Christian Brothers' school in Ballyferriter recognised that a large stone covering a drain in the school was in fact the early Christian cross slab depicted in the photograph. The Ballferriter survey will cover an area of 217 square miles, including the Balsket islands.

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