Mountsandel: where Irish history started

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The archaeological importance of Mountsandel as the

site of the earliest known settlement of man in Ireland is to be highlighted to Coleraine schoolchildren next week.

During the 1970s, Peter Woodman and his team of archaeologists uncovered evidence of a Mesolithic - Middle Stone Age - settlement dating back to 7600-7900BC at Mountsandel.

Their discoveries dramatically revised our understanding of prehistoric life at that time, and the Coleraine site remains the earliest known evidence of human settlement in Ireland.

Now Coleraine Rotary Club and Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council are working together to educate and inform schools on the historic importance of the ‘forgotten site.

They have teamed up with Coleraine High School and the Coleraine Academical Institution to bring together a group of 30 Year 10 pupils to learn about the hunter-gatherers in the area.

On Friday, June19 the students will visit Mountsandel Fort and the Mesolithic site itself, where there have been significant archaeological findings.

They will also be guided around the nearby beach area, where they will find flint, and the surrounding forest and woodland.

The area is interspersed with interpretative panels, highlighting the history and biodiversity of the site.

The pupils will attend three separate workshops at three separate locations within the Mountsandel site - Archaeology, Flint and Hunting – facilitated by specialists from Causeway Coast and Glens Borough Council.

During the hunting workshop, students will be asked to pick and bag some litter to raise awareness about the importance of looking after our natural environment and heritage.

Professor Peter Woodman, who began excavating the site in 1973 and uncovered significant evidence said: “At the time, we did not realise that the site was nearly 10,000 years old.

“However we knew that for the first time, here in Ireland, we were standing on the actual spots where people had lived, ate, squatted down round the fire and told stories or found places to sleep.”

Mountsandel is unique and pivotal in our understanding of the first immigrants to the island of Ireland in so far as it has the actual huts pits and hearths of quality along with evidence of animals and fish, which were hunted and plant foods gathered.

Prior to the discoveries at Mounsandel, Boora in County Offally was the earliest known Mesolithic site, which provided actual fauna remains.

Carbon dating has shown that Mountsandel predates this very important site and other very important sites by at least a few hundred years.