Axe Points to Ancient Link with Britain

The Irish Times, Wednesday, May 21st, 2008

Pat Flynn

A Stone Axe uncovered in Doolin, Co. Clare in 2000 has been scientifically confirmed as having likely originated in the Great Langdale and Scafell areas of Cumbria in England. The Clare Museum and the Irish Stone Axe Project (ISAP), based at University College Dublin, have uncovered evidence of a 6,000-year-old trade link between Ireland and Britain. As the axe was placed on public display in Ennis yesterday, the curator of Clare Museum, John Rattigan, said, “The linking of this stone axe with Cumbria suggests there was contact between Neolithic people in Ireland and in mainland Great Britain.”

The Neolithic or “New Stone Age” (4000-2500 BC) is generally regarded as the period in which Ireland became a predominantly agricultural-based society. As well as being the first Irish farmers, the people of this period were the creators of field systems and the builders of great tombs such as those found in the Burren in Co. Clare. Tools, usually in the form of stone axes, were used to clear great tracts of oak and elm woodland.

“Studies on the finely polished implement have found that it is different to the typical dark-grey shale axes produced at a site close to the cobble beach at Doolin. More significantly, petrological analysis indicates that the pale green axe was a type of stone known as ‘tuff’ which is typical of the tools produced in Cumbria. This discovery reinforces suggestions that trade links existed between the west of Ireland and western Britain during the Neolithic era,” Mr Rattigan said.

The axe has been placed on display at Clare Museum along with a recently conserved bronze axehead acquired by the museum in 2004. “This socketed and looped axe-head was discovered at Knockliscrane in Kilmurry-Ibrickane, Co. Clare. Although badly damaged by time and weathering, the metal has been conserved and stabilised, thus ensuring its survival into the future,” he said.

The aim of the ISAP is to establish a database of all known Irish stone axes.

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