Ireland’s oldest burials

In 2001 Ireland's oldest burials of two Mesolithic hunter-gathers were uncovered near the River Shannon at Hermitage, Castleconnell, Co. Limerick.

A reconstructed Mesolithic hut from Ferrycarrig Heritage Park.

In 2001 excavation in advance of the construction of the Castleconnell Rising Main, close to a potential fording point on the River Shannon downriver from Castleconnell village at Hermitage, uncovered two early Mesolithic burials. These are the earliest burials identified in Ireland. The burials were found in two separate areas A and B. The area A burial consisted of a circular pit with a diameter of 60cm that had contained a marker post. The cremated remains of an adult, probably male, were placed around the post with a burnt ground stone axe and two microliths. The burial was radiocarbon dated to 7550-7290 cal BC and 7530-7320 cal BC. The Area B pit had a diameter of 2.3m x 1.5m and contained cremated bone representing one adult and heat-shattered stone and baked and burnt clay. This burial was dated to 7030-6630 cal BC and 7090-7030 cal BC. These burials are very significant as they indicate that formal burial in Ireland was taking place long before the development of farming and settled communities.

Further Reading
Collins, T. and Coyne, F. 2003. Fire and water: Early Mesolithic cremations at Castleconnell, Co. Limerick. Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 17, No. 2, 24-7.

Collins, T. and Coyne, F. 2006. As old as we felt. Archaeology Ireland, Vol. 20, No. 4, 21.

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