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 Early Irish Settlers

The first people arrived in Ireland about 6000 BC crossing from Scotland in dug out canoes, possibly shortly after the land bridge had been flooded. They settled on the Antrim coast where the town of Larne is situated today, also at Mount Sandal Co Derry.

They were essentially hunter gatherers living on fish and other food that they gathered in the area. Their tools included knives and scrapers made of flint. Gradually, they moved northwards along the coast to Magilligan Point, in County Londonderry; southwards to Dalkey Island, in County Dublin; and inland along the river valleys.

These [Early hunter.] early settlers left no tangible evidence in the form of art or structures, their survival depended on a nomadic existence following the seasonal migrations of the species upon which they preyed, their lifestyle left little time for the production of art. They and subsequent generations left behind their imperishable tools, in the form of flint arrow and spear heads, and stone axes of which in excess of twenty thousand have been discovered across Ireland.

About 4000 BC a second wave of settlers arrived who used domesticated animals and who knew how to make textiles and pottery. These settlers made tools of polished stone, tilled the land and grew cereals, it seems likely that there was little competition for land and that the new arrivals coexisted with the earlier settlers, and in all possibility eventually integrated with them.

They lived in small communities in round wooden houses thatched with straw. The most striking survivals of these people in Ireland are the megaliths [Poulnabrone Doleman in County Clare.] (great stone monuments) which they erected over their dead. The simplest type of megalith is the dolmen or portal tomb, which consists of three or more upright stones, with a flat capstone laid across them. An impressive dolmen is at Legananny, in County Down. The most striking megaliths are passage graves, of which the one at Newgrange, in County Meath, is world-famous and was built five hundred years before the Egyptian pyramids.

Newgrange demonstrates that these early people had an extensive knowledge of the movements of the sun and planets, at the winter solstice the rays of the rising sun shine directly along the entrance tunnel, proving to those watching that the sun is returning to the northern hemisphere, enabling them to grow their crops vital to their survival.

About 2000 BC a group of metalworkers arrived in Ireland. They knew how to make bronze by mixing copper and tin. At that time, Ireland had abundant resources of copper and gold, this group of people made the country an important center of metalworking. They exported metal goods to Britain, France, Iberia (now Portugal and Spain), Crete, and some other areas. These exported goods included torques and twisted ribbons of gold.