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Publication: Finding Mesolithic lithics in my garden during COVID-19

Late Mesolithic distally-trimmed blade (2021C2:1). Photograph by James Connolly.

I’m a co-author on a new publication, led by Cian Hogan. ‘A prehistoric chert assemblage with a Late Mesolithic component from Castlegal, Cope’s Mountain, Sligo’, has just been published in the Sligo Field Club Journal, Vol. 8. The assemblage is from my garden.

Marion Dowd (ATU Sligo) and I (both of us are archaeologists) were planting trees in a garden on Cope’s Mountain in north Sligo during one of the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2021. As I dug out the topsoil, Marion noticed that some of the chert stones coming out looked like it might have been worked by a human hand. The more we planted, the more we noticed. Our tree planting effectively resembled a random pattern of shovel test pits across the garden that produced multiple pieces of natural and worked chert. The items were all in a disturbed context and had originated from an archaeological site presumably in the wider environs. We immediately contacted the National Museum of Ireland, notified them of our discovery and were given a Collection Number.

Overall, we recovered 22 stone (lithic) tools constructed from a rock type known as chert. The assemblage was sent for analysis to lithic specialist Cian Hogan (CeártaCloch), who examined them in detail, funded by ATU Sligo. Cian identified in the assemblage two Late Mesolithic forms, which date to 5500-4000 BC. Several convex scrapers, flakes and retouched pieces were also recovered. These could date to any time from the Late Mesolithic through to the Neolithic and Bronze Age (5500-700 BC).

The two Late Mesolithic artefacts are particularly important considering the paucity of evidence for hunter-gatherer activities from counties Sligo and Leitrim as a whole. These were everyday tools, similar to knives, and were used for activities such as butchering animal carcasses and/or chopping siliceous plants in north Sligo some 6,000 to 7,500 years ago.

Late Mesolithic distally-trimmed blade (2021C2:1). Illustrated by Elaine Lynch.

You can read about the discovery here:
Hogan, C., Dowd, M. and Bonsall, J. 2022. ‘A prehistoric chert assemblage with a Late Mesolithic component from Castlegal, Cope’s Mountain, Sligo’. Sligo Field Club Journal 8, 65-80.

Map of known Mesolithic material (8000-4000 BC) in and around Sligo. Map by James Bonsall, Fourth Dimension Prospection Ltd.

There’s some coverage of the article in The Sligo Champion.

Sligo Field Club Journal, Volume 8

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