Friday, 5 September 2014

Corbally Neolithic Settlement

Corbally is one of the largest Neolithic settlements in Ireland with a total of 7 houses found there, it must have been a site of importance to have this many houses in that period. It was located east of the plains of Kildare with the River Liffey basin about 2.5 km away, which is also the nearest water source. All the houses were firmly radiocarbon dated to the Neolithic period, with dates ranging from 3930-3541 BC.

Before I go too much into this, I would like to thank the excavators of the Corbally site, Red Tobin and Avril Purcell for their continuous support, feedback and guidance throughout. Also I have to thank David Freeman from Butser Farm for his detailed email responses, and passing on such informative articles and he had some great ideas (e.g. the use of birch bark on roofs, by peeling the bark of birches in large sheets, flattening them to create a covering instead of thatch, as shown here, as pioneering farmers may not have had access to the amount of hay they would need to thatch). Finally, Id like to thank Luke Winter from the Ancient Technology Centre, for his informed feedback on the building and structure of the houses.

Right back to Corbally, the houses were found to be ranging in size, from 11m by 6.7m in house 1, the largest, to 7m by 6.5m in house 3, the smallest. House walls were constructed with a mixture of plank walling, and wattle and daub.The houses are quite similar to houses found throughout Europe from the time ie three aisles with a central simple ridged roofs supported by a pair posts, like in Corbally, which in later Neolithic houses became 3 internal roof support posts. The houses were also internally divided in two, one half larger than the other. Red Tobin, believed that the walls were too weak to hold the weight of the roof and instead the roof was supported by the exterior line of poles. The eaves, created by the external poles, also served the purpose to keep the water away from the walls. The ruined house shown here was believed, by Avril Purcell, not to have been contemporary with its nearest 2 buildings, because of the way its entrance butted against the back of the other house.

Alot of the items found in the site decided on the activities that took place for example: Scrapers, a form of lithic artefact found in Neolithic sites, which are believed to have been used in tanning, hence why the 5 post holes outside the pair of houses on the left show various tanning processes going on. Or another example a saddle quern was found so the sign of cereal production,and  pottery was found, especially near the house at the top middle of the image, so pottery is being made near there in the image. Serpentine beads were one of the more interesting to show up during excavation as these beads aren't from Ireland, the source of the beads could have been anywhere from Cornwall, Wales or Brittany, so may be a sign of long distant trade, so possible look to this sort of trade goes on in the centre of the image.

I have heard some people complain about people standing around doing nothing in illustrations but some archaeologists believe that people would have spent alot of time chilling out, talking, socialising, it wasnt a factory in the end, where everyone worked all the time. Hunting and gathering would still have been quite important at this time, but a certain amount of animal husbandry, cereal farming and growing small plants in garden plots would have also been important. It was theorised by Red Tobin, that a form of teethering would have been used for some of the animals, as there was a lack of evidence for some form of fencing or enclosure as shown in the illustration.

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