Hunter-gatherers probably first began to forage at Rathdown in the late Mesolithic Stone Age (5500 –3500 BC). These early nomads didn’t establish fixed homes or settlements. Their temporary camps consisted of a simple wooden framework covered with animal skins. These structures might be located close to prey or a food source. The foragers might use different camps depending on the weather. The summer camp might be on a sea-cliff or hill-top. Winter camp would have to have been in a forest or some very sheltered spot. The long dark winter provided opportunities to repair tools and weapons and to make pits for storing smoked or salted food.

The hunter-gatherers would have found food quite plentiful in Rathdown’s woodlands, rivers and sea inlets. Their diet might have included salmon, eels, trout, sea-bass, limpets, boar , wild pigs, wood pigeon, and waterfowl such as crane, duck, and stork. Plant sources would have included berries, seeds, nuts, hazelnuts, wild pear and crab-apple.

These pioneer hunter-gatherers were constantly on the move. Longer journeys were frequent, to find new food sources, to socialise, or just to explore their surroundings.

The carinated bowl fragment above was found at Rathdown during this period (c. 4000 BC). Carinated bowls like this are the earliest pottery type found in Ireland.

Cunliffe, Barry, Britain Begins. Oxford University Press.


Carinated ceramic bowl fragment, Rathdown c.4000 BC. Carinated bowls of this kind are the earliest type of pottery found in Ireland
Courtesy of National Museum of Ireland
Flint arrowhead, leaf-shaped, from Rathdown. 4000-2500 BC
Courtesy of National Museum of Ireland
Flint arrowhead, barbed and tanged, Rathdown Upper, Co. Wicklow, 3500-2000 BC
Courtesy of National Museum of Ireland
Flint flake fragment, Rathdown Lower.
Courtesy of National Museum of Ireland
Leaf-shaped blade, with tip broken off, heat affected, Rathdown Upper.
Courtesy of National Museum of Ireland

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