Early History of Lough Allen Region

Lough Allen Research Map  Just some information below that might be of some interest in relation to archaeological discoveries that were made on the shores of Lough Allen dating from the Mesolithic period (known as Mesolithic Ireland , dating from 7500 – 4000BC). I’m surprised that the tourism potential of the unique social archaeology that surrounds Lough Allen hasn’t been developed to its full potential since this report (see below) was first published in 2006. Thanks to Brian Rooney.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irish_Mesolithic

The archaic, palaeolithic or stone-age people of the pre-glacial period, whose remains, artefacts and art have been on the continent and Great Britain, do not seem to have reached Ireland (this conclusion now appears to be incorrect based on a recent discovery by Dr Marion Dowd of Sligo IT http://irisharchaeology.ie/2016/03/new-discovery-pushes-back-date-of-human-existence-in-ireland-by-2500-years/ ).The earliest traces of human habitation in Ireland is post glacial and belong to the period known as Mesolithic Ireland , dating from 7500 – 4000BC and usually divided into Early and Later Mesolithic.Who were the Mesolithic people in Ireland?These Mesolithic people were true hunter gatherers and seem to have moved along the coasts, and waterways of Ireland in their search for sustenance. The dense forests which covered Ireland at that time would have made dispersion difficult and so the people would fish and forage in the most accessible areas. These people probably entered Ireland along the Antrim coast in the north east where Ireland lies closest to Scotland (this conclusion now appears to be incorrect based on a recent discovery by Dr Marion Dowd of Sligo IT http://irisharchaeology.ie/2016/03/new-discovery-pushes-back-date-of-human-existence-in-ireland-by-2500-years/ ) and possibly some also migrated from Wales to the east coast of Ireland.Sites of their presence have been found along the Bann and in the Boyne Valley, they were also in the midlands at Lough Boora near Tullamore in County Offaly and as far south as Ferrier’s Cove in the Dingle peninsula. From Mount Sandel a high ridge along the river Bann, near Coleraine in county Derry, we learn that these early people lived in circular dwellings of about 20 feet diameter and the post holes indicate that they were formed of branches bent inwards to form a dome. The floor of the dwelling was dug out and a fire pit was placed in the centre of the structure.What did the Mesolithic settlers eat?We know from their middens that they ate fish, shellfish birds, nuts, apples, berries and wild boar. Their tools consisted of small blades of flint known as microliths which were probably bound to a shaft to form spears, arrows and harpoons. They also used various stones for skinning animals and scraping hides. It must be remembered that apart from their flint implements, these people used only organic materials and so we can only have a limited knowledge of how difficult or brutish their lives were.Mesolithic burials in IrelandWe do not know how these early Irish disposed of their dead as their remains have never been discovered other than a two pieces of Mesolithic human metacarpal found in 1993, along with 150 other human fragments, in a cave at Killuragh County Limerick and dated to (A)7000-6546BC and (B)7194-6658 BC. Although burn marks appeared on some of the bone fragments its suggested the fire could have been from more recent times.The bones were found amongst other human fragments, animal fragments (including a giant deer, megalocerus giganteous, and weathered microliths, flakes, scrapers, shards of pottery and blades.What impact did the Mesolithic people make?A later 1996 investigation of the cave in Killuragh suggests that the material had been washed into the cave and laid in situ. It is not thought that the Mesolithic population numbered more than eight thousand as their life style would not have been able to sustain a much larger population.Throughout the Mesolithic period the only significant development in this society seems to be a change from microliths to macroliths. That is the flint tools have increased in size. However, we can never know if in the 4,000 years of the Mesolithic period there were societal, linguistic or religious changes occurring. It was not until the Neolithic Period in Ireland that we began to see a more increase of influence on the inhabitants of the island.
http://www.yourirish.com/history/ancient/mesolithic/mesolithic-irelandThe early prehistory in the west of Ireland: Investigations into the social archaeology of the Mesolithic, west of the Shannon, Ireland.Killian DriscollM.Litt. Thesis October 2006, Department of Archaeology, National University of Ireland, Galway. Head of Department: Professor John Waddell. Supervisor: Dr. Stefan BerghSummary and AcknowledgementsThe Mesolithic period under consideration in this thesis, from c. 8000 cal. BC to c. 4000 cal. BC, covers about 40% of the time that people have inhabited Ireland since the end of the last Ice Age. Some time around 4000 cal. BC the Mesolithic-Neolithic transition occurred, a period that has been seen as the transition from a hunting and gathering lifestyle to that of farming.Even though the Mesolithic period is nearly half of Ireland’s history of human settlement, it has generally not received much research attention in Ireland. This is especially so in the west of Ireland, where our understandings of the early prehistoric communities have been hampered by a lack of sustained, critical research. This thesis was undertaken to critically review the evidence we have for the social archaeology of this period, covering the six counties west of the Shannon, Co.’s Clare, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, and Sligo. Along with the review of the literature and the material culture housed in the National Museum and elsewhere, this thesis undertook a series of fieldwalking programmes; these were undertaken to augment the material record, and to assess these various areas for suitability for further, longer-term research programmes.After discussing the history of research concerning the Stone Age in Ireland, and in particular in the west, this thesis then considers the evidence for the Mesolithic and Mesolithic-Neolithic transition in Ireland. Attention is then turned to discussing the approaches used by researchers concerning landscape and social archaeology, and how such approaches will be used in this thesis. This is followed by a detailed description and discussion of the fieldwalking programmes and museum research, where each locale will be dealt with individually. This thesis will then discuss how we can understand the evidence in terms of a social archaeology of the period.I am profoundly grateful to my wife, Juliana, for her endless support and encouragement, and to my two sons, Luke and Rowan, for allowing me to work when I should have been playing. I would also like to thank my parents, Dennis and Zelie, for their support.A great number of people have been more than helpful over the last two years of my research – this thesis would have been less without them. In no particular order, I would like to sincerely thank the following for the various help and they gave me.Thank you to Richard Gillespie for the forthcoming publication on the Neolithic house at Newport; Tracy Collins for the stratigraphic report of the Hermitage site; Mel McQuade for the forthcoming publication on the River Liffey Mesolithic site; Gerry Walsh for help with access to the Oranmore and Leedaun lithics and lithic reports; Gabriel Cooney for the Stone Axe Database; Barry Raftery for the Lough Gara crannogs map; and Jim Higgins for tracing material in the Galway City Museum.Thank you to all the landowners who gave me permission to access their land. Thank you to Paul Nessans for help with the boat trip to River Island, and for introducing me to Noel Higgins; and Noel Higgins for presenting me with the River Corrib divers’ lithics. Thank you to the staff, and especially Mary Cahill, of the National Museum of Ireland, for all the help with my many queries, requests, and tracing of material. Thank you to Stephan Kelly, and especially Juan Carlos Castaneda, GIS Lab., NUI,Galway, for the many, many hours of help and problem solving with the mapping software. Thank you to Michael Williams, Geology Dept., NUI,Galway for the identification of lithics that I collected and Matthew Parkes, Natural History Museum, Dublin, who identified some of the Lough Gara lithics. Thank you to Angela Gallagher for making the photographic scale bars.Thank you to Dag Hammar for the tutoring on lithics and knapping, and help with fieldwalking for the weekend in Leitrim. Thank you to Christina Fredengren, and especially Graeme Warren, for their respective advice, time, and help. Thank you to Marie-Louise Coolahan for reading a draft of a chapter. Thank you to Peter Woodman for sending me numerous publications, and who was very generous with his time and knowledge over the last two years. And last but not least, thank you very much to Stefan Bergh for supervising my thesis; I greatly appreciate all the time, energy, and encouragement he gave to my research.http://www.lithicsireland.ie/mlitt_mesolithic_west_ireland_contents.html

http://www.lithicsireland.ie/images/mlitt_file_images/fig_5_22.jpg
5.4.1 Lough Allen, Co.’s Leitrim & RoscommonAfter Lough Gara, the biggest grouping of Mesolithic material in the west of Ireland comes from Lough Allen, Co.’s Leitrim and Roscommon. In the literature two Lough Allen findspots are usually mentioned (e.g. Fredengren 2002, 114; Gibbons et al. 2004, 5; O’Sullivan 1998, 55), while there are in fact six findspots recorded in the museum archives. Similarly to Lough Gara, Lough Allen’s lake level was dropped. Raftery, who surveyed Lough Gara at the time, also did a quick survey of Lough Allen and noted 20 examples of the crannogs or platforms, what were described as metalling sites (O’Sullivan 1998, 54). Raftery did not appear to examine these sites in any detail, and it is uncertain as to whether any lithics were apparent on these as on some in Lough Gara.Figure 5-22 Lough Allen townlands and previous findspotsToday, the low level of the lake exposes large areas of submerged forests, presumably of early prehistoric date. The tree trunks from this submerged forest are visible at nearly all spots of the lake visited, except where the shore is stony. In a number of places, possible traces of stone platforms are visible, but these did not appear to contain any lithics. In the southwest section of the lake, a cut away bog shows the growth of trees at various levels in the bog’s history.The initial fieldwork agenda to be carried out at Lough Allen was to visit the old findspots to ascertain whether more material was apparent. The first two days of fieldwalking was undertaken with the help of Dag Hammar. With positive results it was decided to extend the survey of the lake by a few days to include stretches of the shore with no previous finds. Only the shoreline itself was fieldwalked, with no examination of the surrounding fields, except when they were passed through for access, at which time any erosion scars were checked. It is important to also note that not all of the shorelines walked were examined fully. In places the summer water level exposes up to 140m of shoreline from the winter level, making it impossible to survey these areas fully with the limited time available. The strategy in these places was to either crisscross an area to search both the lower and upper shoreline, or else to look out for patches that might hold material. This therefore is a random, ad hoc random strategy, done to quickly scan the shoreline. However, this unsystematic approach is justifiable as this survey should be taken as a preliminary research guide for further more extensive and intensive survey work of the area.Note: For this survey a scatter was considered to be 2 or more lithics within 10m of each other. This is of course an arbitrary decision on what constitutes a scatter, and is used in order to simplify the grouping of the material as opposed to implying a close spatial relationship between them.Annagh Lower
Previous finds/research:
Mitchell found a number of lithics on the river bed of the Shannon during a very dry summer in 1968 (MNI 1984: 194-7) (For all previous Lough Allen finds see Appendix 10). These were a fragment of a flint core, a retouched leaf-shaped flake, and three flakes. Besides the flint, the rest may be chert. It is unclear where the exact findspot was as Mitchell only provenanced these lithics to the townland.
Survey:
As the river was high no other lithics were noted along the stretch of river walked (Fig. 5-23).Figure 5-23 Kilgarriff finds, with Ross More, Ross Beg Glebe, and Annagh Lr.Kilgarriff
Previous Research/finds: No previous finds
Survey:
A short stretch of the east bank of the River Shannon was walked along Annagh Lower, giving access to Kilgarriff, and the top of Lough Allen (Fig. 5-23). The summer level of the lake exposed a flat, sandy, gravely, muddy expanse of a few ha – evidence of submerged tree trunks were visible throughout. A few lithics were found at the beginning of the lake near the river, with scattered spots of fire cracked stones, plus an old trackway/pier also apparent (for all Lough Allen survey finds, see Appendix 11). A small wooded island lies a short distance due south.Table 5-25 Kilgarriff findsFahy
Previous Research/finds: No previous finds
Survey: On the north east shore, we quickly checked the area at the north mouth of the river, by the graveyard (Fig.5-24). This was a large expanse of a stony, gravelly shoreline. Two flakes were from further north near the grassy higher, winter  shoreline. As these finds gave a positive indication of prehistoric activity in the area, the area was not examined more extensively.Table 5-26 Fahy findsFigure 5-24 Fahy finds, with Cleighran More, CornamuckCleighran More & Cornamuck
Previous Research/finds: No previous finds
Survey: A few km south of Fahy a c. 2km stretch of shoreline of two townlands was surveyed (Fig.5-24). However, this area produced no finds: however a possible stone platform was noted in Cornamuck. Much of this stretch of shore was rocky.Cormongan
Previous Research/finds:
A group consisting of 2 cores, 1 flake axe, 1 retouched flake, and 6 flakes were found on the shore (MNI 1978: 48-57). The lithics are heavily patinated to a chocolate brown colour, making the identification of the material difficult. Of the lithics that could be identified these were tuff, with one possible chert.
Survey:
The survey started at the pier at the southern end of the townland (Fig. 5-25). At this point the shoreline was a gravely stretch, with the lower levels exposing 30-40m of shoreline. The first section to the bend at Guberusheen had frequent isolated finds, with a possible platform feature consisting of a circular spread of white stones a few metres in diameter. At the bend at Guberrusheen, there was a break in the finds for c. 100m, with more isolated finds starting up again, and with 1 scatter of 4 lithics found close to the water.
The isolated finds continued until reaching the sandy stretch of the shore. Here, the low water level exposed a shore of c. 50-60m. At this point – close to the outlet of a small stream with a sand bank and cluster of willow trees – was the densest concentration of material. This outlet was overlooked from the southeast by a bluff. Here, 51 of the 92 finds from the townland were collected. However, one reason for this density in collecting is that a possible Early Mesolithic core axe and some possible Early Mesolithic cores were collected, leading us to investigate the area closely for microliths. That being said, this area nevertheless a clear concentration of material.Table 5-27 Cormongan findsFigure 5-25 Cormongan and Cornashamsoge findsCornashamsoge
Previous research/finds: No previous finds.
Survey:
The shoreline of Cornashamsoge is a southern continuation of the shoreline from Cormongan (Fig. 5-25). Two scatters were from close to the start of the survey, with an isolated find c. 80m away, and another c. 200m away. The shoreline then became rocky and there was a break of c. 500m until the next finds. This next group was a series of six scatters close to each other, with the last being close to a small stream.
After this small stream, the shoreline opened up to a large boggy, gravely expanse which connected to a rocky winter island. Here, two scatters and four isolated finds were spread out over a large area.Table 5-28 Cornashamsoge findsMahanagh
Previous research/finds:
A flake was found on the lake bed near the shore by fishermen (MNI 1942:1). This was the first reported find from Lough Allen. In the Lough Gara collection a number of items are also provenanced to Lough Allen: Raftery found one worked stone in Mahanagh (MNI E20:3758), while another flake is provenanced to Lough Allen, but no townland is mentioned (MNI E20:3676). A collection of 1 distally trimmed flake, 2 butt trimmed flakes, 17 flakes, and 2 stones was handed to Raftery by the Shannon navigation workers (E20:3824): while this is not provenanced to a townland it would seem that this material came from beside Mahanagh as this is where they were working. The material of these lithics is unidentified.
Survey:
The survey started at the outlet of the Shannon River on the east bank at the weir (Fig. 5-26). Here, there is a small peninsula with the Shannon running along the west, and Lough Allen continuing southwards on the east. The peninsula is a low hill of c. 150 m wide, with the shoreline stony and gravelly. The beginning of the survey found a few small pieces, up to an area with fire cracked rocks and charcoal. After the fire cracked rocks area, began a dense cluster of worked chert, with hundreds of lithics. A few sample pieces were collected. At this point the lithics can be seen to be eroding out of the grassy winter level shoreline.
The lithic scatter was less dense once we rounded the bend of the peninsula, but with a definite sense of clustering. On the east side of the peninsula, the quantity of lithics picked up with scattered smaller clusters, but these were not as great as on the west side. The scatters picked up again in quantity and density towards the end of the peninsula; these continued for a few hundred metres with the distance between the scatters becoming greater. After the peninsula the fields close to the shoreline become boggier and flatter. A possible stone platform was noted on the southwest end of the survey.Table 5-29 Mahanagh findsFigure 5-26 Mahanagh and Derrynadoey findsDerrynadoey
Previous research/finds: No previous finds.
Survey:
Derrynadoey is on the western shore of the Shannon and Allen, opposite to Mahanagh (Fig. 5-26). Here, the land is low lying and boggy beside the river and start of the lake, and northwards the townland juts out eastwards into the lake forming a narrow, humped, tree covered peninsula. The first c. 500m surveyed produced no finds, with two scatters close by near a rise in the land at the southwestern start of the peninsula. There was another break of c. 600m until the next series of an isolated find and two scatters, one of which was on the southeastern tip of the peninsula.
Around the bend of the peninsula the shore was rocky, with no finds for c. 600m until an isolated find which was c. 80m due north of the previous series on the opposite side of the peninsula. The remaining c. 800m of shoreline produced no finds.Table 5-30 Derrynadoey findsCurraghs South & Mullaghfadda
Previous research/finds: Two large pick-like implements were found on the shoreline of Curraghs South (MNI 1968:226-227).
Survey:
The shorelines of the adjacent townlands of Curraghs South and Mullaghfadda on the west shore of Lough Allen were walked together (Fig. 5-27). For the most part the shoreline was rocky, with a gravelly, sandy, boggy patch towards to the south of Mullaghfadda. In all c. 2km of the shoreline was walked with only two isolated finds noted, with both of these in Mullaghfadda.Table 5-31 Mullaghfadda findsFigure 5-27 Derrynahinch and Mullaghfadda finds, and Curraghs SouthDerrynahinch
Previous research/finds: No previous finds.
Survey:
From the harbour we walked southwest towards Corry Island – connected to the mainland during the summer – with no finds until we neared the island (Fig. 5-27). On the island there was a circle of stones which produced two finds, with three more close by. Another scatter was to the west on the southwest shore of the island.Table 5-32 Derrynahinch findsDrummans Lower & Drummans Upper
Previous research/finds: A blade was found on the dried lake bed of Drummans Lower (MNI 1984:110), and Mitchell collected in the same townland 41 lithics consisting of 2 cores, 1 butt trimmed flake and flakes and blades, of which 10 are retouched (E114:3-34). Mitchell only provenanced this material to the townland. The material used was tuff, chert, and flint, with most of them not identifiable.
Survey:
Drummans Lower and Drummans Upper are on the northwestern corner of Lough Allen, with the Owengar River’s inlet to the lake forming the northern boundary of Drummans Lower (Fig. 5-28). Drummans Island is connected to the mainland during the summer by a grassy, gravely strip, creating a peninsula of the wooded island.
The shore at the top of the lake was a gravely, muddy expanse, with the two largest scatters in the area starting c. 100m southeast from the river mouth. Further scatters and isolated finds were collected close to the water, along the north side of the seasonal peninsula. The perimeter of the peninsula (island) was walked with no finds for c. 500m until we came back on the south side close to the previous finds. The southern shore was then walked with no finds for c. 400m. At this point the summer shore is a c. 90m muddy expanse. A further c. 1.3km of shoreline was walked southwards with no finds, with much of this shoreline rocky.Table 5-33 Drumman’s Lr. findsFigure 5-28 Drummans Lr. and Derrinvorey finds, and Drummans UpperDerrinvorey Lower
Previous research/finds: No previous finds
Survey:
Derrinvorey Lower is the western portion of Lough Allen’s northern shore, with Drummans Lower adjacent to the south, separated by the Owengar River (Fig. 5-28). Here, the exposed shore was at a maximum c. 140m wide, narrowing in places to c. 50m. This shore was rocky in pockets, but mostly muddy, and sandy and gravely towards the higher shoreline. The first finds were three isolated finds from a stony patch towards the higher shoreline near the car park. The next c. 1km of shore produced no finds. The next group produced five isolated finds and one scatter. These were all found within c. 70m of each other, and were c. 130m from the river mouth.Table 5-34 Derrinvorey Lr. findsRoss More & Ross Beg Glebe
Previous research/finds: No previous finds. Woodman has informed me that he and Fredengren walked a stretch of this shore, but with no lithics found (pers. comm.).
Survey:
These adjoining townlands are on the opposite bank of the Shannon and Allen to Kilgariff (Fig. 5-23). A c. 2.5km stretch of the shore was walked, but with no finds. Approximately half of the shoreline is rocky.Plate 5-20 C05:1:922 Cormongan, single platform corePlate 5-21 C05:1:920 Cormongan, single platform corePlate 5-22 C05:1:1034 Mahanagh, dual opposed corePlate 5-23 C05:1:1007 Mahanagh, single platform corePlate 5-24 C05:1:1032 Mahanagh, single platform corePlate 5-25 C05:1:965 Cornashamsoge, single platform corePlate 5-26 C05:1:982 Cornashamsoge, scraperPlate 5-27 C05:1:918,945,954 Cormongan, bladesPlate 5-28 C05:1:985 Cormongan, bladePlate 5-29 C05:1:968 Cornashamsoge, butt trimmed flakePlate 5-30 C05:1:1085 Mahanagh, ret/wm bladePlate 5-31 C05:1:1075,1076,1081,1083 Mahanagh, bladesPlate 5-32 C05:1:872 Cormongan, core axePlate 5-33 C05:1:1110,1151,1152 Mahanagh, flakesDiscussionThe survey of Lough Allen collected a total of 436 lithics along eleven stretches of the lake, with two of these stretches producing no finds. 51 of these finds were isolated finds, with a further 46 scatters recorded. Half of these scatter were scatters of two to three lithics, while a quarter were scatters of four to nine. The largest scatters were found in Mahanagh. For some of these scatters only a sample of the lithics was collected due to the extensive nature of them. While the overall count for Derrynadoey, beside Mahanagh, was not great, the size of the scatters there would seem more extensive than in other areas surveyed.Areas of rocky shoreline tended to produce no finds – whether this is because it is harder to see lithics in between the rocks or whether the lithics could be found higher up and parallel to the rocky shoreline, under what is now grass or trees and bushes, is uncertain, but would seem to be a distinct pattern.The lack of finds from Ross More and Ross Beg Glebe is peculiar as, while half the shore was rocky, the remainder is the type of shore where other lithics have been found – muddy, gravelly, sandy – including finds from Kilgariff, which is just across the river. Therefore this blank spot in finds stands out, all the more as this area had previously been walked by Woodman and Fredengren with no finds, suggesting a pattern beyond bad luck on the day.In comparison to the lithics collected during the Tawin/Maree survey the assemblage from Lough Allen contains a substantially higher ratio of blades to flakes. In the Tawin/Maree assemblage there were only 15 blades and over 500 flakes, whereas at Lough Allen the ratio was 1:3 blades to flakes. Overall the flakes and blades tended to be larger than the Tawin/Maree assemblage, being for the most part between 3cm and 6cm in length.
In terms of the cores what is apparent in comparison with the Tawin/Maree survey is the lack of the bipolar technique being used in the cores collected. The single platform technique is more prevalent with some of these single platform cores being examples of the classic Later Mesolithic uniplane core. However, the Ferriter’s Cove excavations (Woodman et al. 1999) highlighted that a lack of classic uniplane cores does not imply post-Mesolithic activity, and that the uniplane core is an artefact of the flint rich northeast, as opposed to a strict template to be followed.Figure 5-29 Core types for Lough Allen surveyAs mentioned, three possible Early Mesolithic cores (C05:1:919, 921-2) were collected in Cormongan, along with a possible Early Mesolithic core axe (C05:1:872). Another possible Early Mesolithic core was collected on the north shore at Derrinvorey Lower (C05:1:1274). One of these cores was a single platform core, while the other three are dual opposed cores. The difficulty with identifying these as Early Mesolithic is that in the Neolithic they also worked cores in a similar fashion. Therefore these remain questionable until further work can assess whether there is indeed an Early Mesolithic presence.The clear majority of the assemblage appears to be Later Mesolithic in date. As mentioned in the last paragraph a few of the cores may be Neolithic, as well as some others (e.g. C05:1:1226). A bifacially retouched flint flake can be considered post-Mesolithic (C05:1:859), as probably can the two scrapers (C05:1:867 C05:1:982). As the majority of the lithics are undiagnostic, the post-Mesolithic element may be slightly more substantial.The graph above shows the survey’s finds, excluding unmodified flakes, blades, cores and debris. The amount of retouched types is considerably smaller than the Tawin/Maree collection, but given the water rolled nature of the material this is not surprising.Figure 5-30 Lough Allen finds, excluding unmodified flakes, blades, cores, and debrisIn terms of the raw materials used one of the difficulties has been identifying the material. In the collection of material in the National museum the lithics were all called chert, apart from the flint. However, it is apparent that they are not all chert. Parkes, geologist at the Natural History Museum, has looked at some of the Lough Gara lithics in the museum for me and has identified some as tuff. A selection of this survey’s lithics has been examined by Williams, Geology Dept., NUI,Galway, and this has again shown the use of tuff, other unspecific volcanic types, siltstone/mudstone, as well as non-carboniferous chert, flint, and chert; an axe of shale and one of basalt were also identified. Unfortunately half of the survey’s collection remains unidentified, and this may well highlight other raw materials, but a pattern does emerge of the predominance of chert, followed by tuff and other volcanic material.While the diagnostic post-Mesolithic collection is small, what is apparent is that the use of raw materials seems to be more restricted than in the Later Mesolithic, with the lithics only in either flint or chert. This pattern is also apparent in the Lough Gara collection, where in the Later Mesolithic a range of materials was used, with again only chert or flint used later (apart from the materials for axes). Of course, in the Neolithic and Bronze Age they used other materials such as quartz, jasper, mudstone, and soapstone, but nevertheless this pattern seems to hold for these two areas and also seems apparent in the collection of material from the Bally Lough Project (Kador, pers. comm.).http://www.lithicsireland.ie/mlitt_mesolithic_west_ireland_chap_5.html#Secfive4onehttp://www.lithicsireland.ie/images/mlitt_file_images/fig_5_23.jpgDiscussion
The survey of Lough Allen collected a total of 436 lithics along eleven stretches of the lake, with two of these stretches producing no finds. 51 of these finds were isolated finds, with a further 46 scatters recorded.  Half of these scatter were scatters of two to three lithics, while a quarter were scatters of four to nine.  The largest scatters were found in Mahanagh.  For some of these scatters only a sample of the lithics was collected due to the extensive nature of them.  While the overall count for Derrynadoey, beside Mahanagh, was not great, the size of the scatters there would seem more extensive than in other areas surveyed.
Areas of rocky shoreline tended to produce no finds – whether this is because it is harder to see lithics in between the rocks or whether the lithics could be found higher up and parallel to the rocky shoreline, under what is now grass or trees and bushes, is uncertain, but would seem to be a distinct pattern.
The lack of finds from Ross More and Ross Beg Glebe is peculiar as, while half the shore was rocky, the remainder is the type of shore where other lithics have been found – muddy, gravelly, sandy – including finds from Kilgariff, which is just across the river.  Therefore this blank spot in finds stands out, all the more as this area had previously been walked by Woodman and Fredengren with no finds, suggesting a pattern beyond bad luck on the day.
In comparison to the lithics collected during the Tawin/Maree survey the assemblage from Lough Allen contains a substantially higher ratio of blades to flakes.  In the Tawin/Maree assemblage there were only 15 blades and over 500 flakes, whereas at Lough Allen the ratio was 1:3 blades to flakes.  Overall the flakes and blades tended to be larger than the Tawin/Maree assemblage, being for the most part between 3cm and 6cm in length.
In terms of the cores what is apparent in comparison with the Tawin/Maree survey is the lack of the bipolar technique being used in the cores collected.  The single platform technique is more prevalent with some of these single platform cores being examples of the classic Later Mesolithic uniplane core.  However, the Ferriter’s Cove
excavations (Woodman et al. 1999) highlighted that a lack of classic uniplane cores does not imply post-Mesolithic activity, and that the uniplane core is an artefact of the flint rich northeast, as opposed to a strict template to be followed.
Lough Allen cores
Core fragment 2% Dual alternate core 5%
Dual opposed core 17%
Multiplatform core 26%
Single platform core 45%
Chopper-like core 5%
Fig. 5.29. Core types for Lough Allen survey.
As mentioned, three possible Early Mesolithic cores (C05:1:919, 921-2) were collected in Cormongan, along with a possible Early Mesolithic core axe (C05:1:872).  Another possible Early Mesolithic core was collected on the north shore at Derrinvorey Lower (C05:1:1274).  One of these cores was a single platform core, while the other three are dual opposed cores.  The difficulty with identifying these as Early Mesolithic is that in the Neolithic they also worked cores in a similar fashion.  Therefore these remain questionable until further work can assess whether there is indeed an Early Mesolithic presence.
The clear majority of the assemblage appears to be Later Mesolithic in date.  As mentioned in the last paragraph a few of the cores may be Neolithic, as well as some others (e.g. C05:1:1226). A bifacially retouched flint flake can be considered postMesolithic (C05:1:859), as probably can the two scrapers (C05:1:867 C05:1:982).  As
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the majority of the lithics are undiagnostic, the post-Mesolithic element may be slightly more substantial………..
………In terms of the raw materials used one of the difficulties has been identifying the material.  In the collection of material in the National museum the lithics were all called chert, apart from the flint.  However, it is apparent that they are not all chert.  Parkes, geologist at the Natural History Museum, has looked at some of the Lough Gara lithics in the museum for me and has identified some as tuff.  A selection of this survey’s lithics has been examined by Williams, Geology Dept., NUI,Galway, and this has again shown the use of tuff, other unspecific volcanic types, siltstone/mudstone, as well as non-carboniferous chert, flint, and chert;  an axe of shale and one of basalt were also identified.  Unfortunately half of the survey’s collection remains unidentified, and this may well highlight other raw materials, but a pattern does emerge of the predominance of chert, followed by tuff and other volcanic material.
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While the diagnostic post-Mesolithic collection is small, what is apparent is that the use of raw materials seems to be more restricted than in the Later Mesolithic, with the lithics only in either flint or chert.  This pattern is also apparent in the Lough Gara collection, where in the Later Mesolithic a range of materials was used, with again only chert or flint used later (apart from the materials for axes).  Of course, in the Neolithic and Bronze Age they used other materials such as quartz, jasper, mudstone, and soapstone, but nevertheless this pattern seems to hold for these two areas and also seems apparent in the collection of material from the Bally Lough Project (Kador, pers. comm.).    http://www.lithicsireland.ie/driscoll_killian_2006_the_early_prehistory_in_the_west_of_ireland_web.pdf
7 ConclusionThis thesis sought to review the evidence we have for the Mesolithic communities who inhabited the west of Ireland for approximately 4000 years. The aims of this thesis were to understand the character of the early prehistoric period in the six counties west of the Shannon; to understand how people inhabited and utilised the landscape; to establish any degree of variability between the coast and the interior; and to establish any degree of regionality in the material culture. The overall intention was to interpret the evidence in terms of a social archaeology of the period.The evidence gathered from both the museum research and the fieldwalking programmes have shown that evidence for the Mesolithic in the west has gone unrecognised. A belief in the paucity of the archaeological record for the period can easily become a self-fulfilling prophesy – as no one is out there investigating the period it is left unknown. In areas such as Lough Gara and Lough Allen, this thesis has shown that the extent of the available evidence has been overlooked, while the fieldwork in Lough Allen has shown that there is extensive evidence available to be researched. What these two lakes also highlight is the serious bias at play in the known distribution of the evidence. Where lakes have been drained, much evidence can be found, but this creates a bias against areas away from the shores, such as the hinterland of the lakes as well as against lakes where no drainage has taken place. As is a commonplace, the bias towards the northeast has a lot to do with the extensive diatomite cutting that has been carried out there. Looking at the distribution of coastal sites compared to inland sites, it is clear that only the tip of the iceberg of coastal sites has been realised. Looking at the issue of regionality of the material culture, a careful analysis of the assemblages from Lough Allen, Lough Gara, and Belderrig can help in teasing out such issues.This thesis has argued that a landscape approach is a useful way of understanding early prehistoric communities. By adopting a dwelling perspective, we can situate the communities in the landscape, and understand that these communities had complex relations with the world around them. The evidence of the platforms suggest that these communities were actively engaged with the landscape, and actively transforming the landscape. Rather than seeing the landscape as a backdrop to activities, the idea of the taskscape unites the communities with the plants, animals, and the topography with the temporality of the landscape. While we do not need to argue that the Mesolithic communities were clearing large patches of woodland (why would they have needed to?), the evidence suggests that there was more involved than skirting along the woodland edges. These were a people at home in the woodlands. Indeed, the woodland was their home.The ephemeral single finds and lithic scatters that make up the evidence for the Mesolithic – which are usually glossed in economic terms – show us evidence of these taskscapes and belie the complexity of the societal structures of the Mesolithic. As the recent site of the fishing traps, weirs, and platform has shown, a single blade found at a locale may represent many generations of activity in the area, and that we can’t expect the Mesolithic communities to have been like Hansel and Gretel with their lithic deposition – leaving a trail to follow. Rather, the deposition of lithics ultimately rested on the complex world view of the hunter-gatherers. Again, the sites which have produced Mesolithic radiocarbon dates but no lithics forces us to acknowledge that we are blinkered by our inevitable lithic gaze.In terms of further research in the six counties, clearly much more remains to be done. This thesis was only able to spend four months in total of actual fieldwalking time. In all areas surveyed, further work is necessary. In terms of surveying ploughed fields, this has been utterly neglected in the west. This thesis’ fieldwalking programme in the Tawin/Maree area is, as far as I am aware, the first such project in the west of Ireland. As the amount of land under tillage is rapidly declining in the west, I suggest that much work must be carried out in order to use this convenient access into the prehistoric landscape. In areas where no tillage is carried out, such as near the Streamstown finds and Lough Urlaur, test pitting and geophysical surveying of a wide area could be carried out. This may not produce evidence quickly, but is a start if we wish to move beyond our current finds.http://www.lithicsireland.ie/mlitt_mesolithic_west_ireland_chap_7.html