Describing Ireland in 8,000 B.C. has proven a difficult task. The information is scattered and it takes many websites to compile an accurate picture. There is a short descriptive essay at the end of this assignment. Questions can then be posed on whatever topic you decide. This is a post for teachers, mainly, so bear that in mind please. It should suit students aged 11-15. I hope you enjoy the post and any of my books can be viewed by just clicking on the images at the end of this blog post.
ANIMAL SOUNDS OF AN IRISH FOREST
|Ice Age mammals||Introduced since||Now extinct|
|bat||bank vole||wild boar|
|red deer||sika deer||giant deer/elk|
|Irish hare||brown hare||brown bear-1,000 B.C.|
|red fox||fallow deer||reindeer|
|pine marten||sika deer||roe deer|
|Irish stoat||American mink||wild cat|
|red squirrel||grey squirrel||wild pig (greyhound pig)|
|field mouse||black rat||muskrat|
|house mouse||brown rat||woolly mammoth|
|pygmy shrew||muntjac deer||spotted hyena|
|hedgehog||wild boar? (rewilding)||lemmings|
|badger||black panther? (escapes)||lynx|
|white-toothed shrew||Siberian chipmunks||lake monsters|
|NOW PUT IN THE||SOUND EACH ANIMAL||WOULD MAKE|
|bat- squeaking||bank vole- rustling||wild boar- snorting|
There are 26 land mammals in Ireland. A land mammal is taken to be any animal that has existed in the country since 1500 A.D. The animals on the left MAY have been in Ireland during or before the Ice Age. Write in true or false on the right if you think they were.
|polar bears (bred with Irish brown bears)|
|Aurochs (huge wild bulls)|
Timeline for the First People to inhabit Britain and Ireland
2 million years ago: The first humans appeared in Africa.
800,000 years ago: Humans entered Europe, probably from Africa. England is connected to Europe by a land bridge and a footprint dating to this time is found in Norfolk.
700,000 years ago: 32 flints are found in Suffolk. Early man is successfully living in Britain.
480,000 years ago: The earliest bone found in Britain, a shinbone, is found in Suffolk.
250,000 years ago: The Neanderthals leave evidence of their migration into Jersey island. They are the most successful species in Europe at this time. They go extinct circa 30,000 B.C.
40,000 years ago: The first modern man, Cro-Magnon, arrive in Europe. They are one of the reasons the Neanderthals go extinct. There was probably inter-breeding between the two races at some stage. Cro-Magnon man came from the region of Lebanon/Palestine/Israel originally, spread to Siberia and made their way to France. They followed mammoth and reindeer herds in order to survive. They played music (with bone flutes), drew cave art and made tools and weapons from bones, flint and antlers.
33,000 years ago: Cro-Magnon man arrives in Britain.
26,000- 19,000 B.C: An Ice Age hits Britain and Ireland, Northern Europe and as far south as Northern France. All these areas become no-go zones for humans. They may have ventured in to hunt for mammoths and reindeer but the snow and ice are too hostile to live there.
15,000-14,500 B.C: Humans return to Britain and Ireland. There may have been as few as 3,000 people hunting in Britain at this time but 80% of the DNA of British people comes from these hardy few. Ireland may have had as little as 500 people in the same period. Ireland is still connected to Britain by a ‘land bridge’ from Cornwall to Waterford.
11,000 B.C: The juniper tree is the first tree to colonise Ireland after the Ice Age. Giant deer and Aurochs may have crossed into Ireland at this time. Look at the last grid to see the list of animals who may have crossed over at this time. Ireland at this time is a land of open meadows, lakes and sparkling chalk rivers.
10,000 B.C: The land bridge disappears with rising sea levels. Ireland is cut off from Britain forever. Britain today has 43 land mammals. Ireland has 26, as the south of England was always much warmer, enabling animals to survive. Agriculture reaches Europe from the Middle East. There are no wild cattle in Ireland or England and no-one is able to farm.
9,000 B.C: The climate warms rapidly. Birch, willow, pine, hazel, elm, oak, beech, alder and lime trees colonize Ireland. It becomes a land of vast forests. These forests are now bogs.
8,100 B.C: Evidence of the 1st humans in Ireland is found at Fermoy, Co. Cork. They are hunter-gatherers and they burn forests to clear the way for small, temporary shelters. Their huts were made of sticks and clay (i.e. wattle and daub) and covered with animal skins. These people may have brought animals like the brown bear with them. They kept dogs for hunting and protection. They tended to hug the coasts and fished for salmon, trout and eels in the rivers. They ate lots of shellfish and crabs and hunted flounder and bass from the sea. They ate wild boar and deer and set fish traps in every location. A full list is provided below.
|mushrooms||pigeons||barnacles||animal fat cakes|
|blueberries||herons||wild horse||nettle soup|
|wild garlic||wild boar||flounder||Irish hare|
|hen eggs||wild pig||bass||great auk|
|goose eggs||muskrat||mackerel||red squirrel|
|elderberries||fox and otter stew||white carrot||wild cherries|
|cormorant||sloe berries||rose hips||cabbage|
|poppy seeds||fennel||badger||wild strawberries|
|black mustard||turnip||wild celery||wild peas|
These foods are the best guess from researching more than 30 websites on prehistoric Ireland. One example is the nettle. Who knows if it existed in Ireland back then? The Ice Age wiped away a lot of evidence and information is hard to come by. If it did, it is a certainty that they made soup from it in February or March when the leaves were green and without the barbs. These would have been extremely resourceful people, probably a lot cleverer than us. The ancestors of these people were making bone flutes 10,000 years before this and drawing magnificent cave art in France and the Czech Republic. It is very likely that this wave came from France and Spain, in particular the Basque country. To this day, people in the fishing village of Bermeo in the Basque country look very like the Irish themselves. Some have red hair and freckles.
6000 B.C: The first pike colonize Irish rivers.
5600 B.C: Britain gets separated from mainland Europe due to rising sea levels.
4300 B.C: The first cattle arrive in Ireland. The new wave of immigrants are farmers. They are very religious and seem to worship the sun, the moon and the stars.
4000 B.C: The first dolmen is built in Ireland.
3100 B.C: Newgrange is built 1,000 years before the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Newgrange may have been built as an exact replica of the galaxy as it was back then. It may have been strictly for religious festivals. It was probably a form of communication and social control with other counties also.
- Make a list of the foods you would and would not eat from the grid above. Is there any food you would not eat under any circumstances? Explain your reasons for this.
- How would early man have brought bears over to Ireland?
- Describe Ireland as you imagine it in this time. Would you like to have lived back then? What do you think the average age and height of males and females would have been?
- How many areas of the world are still unexplored? Can Google provide the answer? Type In: ‘5 of the most crucial skills for surviving the Stone Age’. Take a look at the foods and skills they needed to survive and make a mini-project on it.
Describing Ireland 8000 B.C: The First Humans Arrive
When we first arrived, the first thing we noticed was the clean air. It smelled of peppermint and fresh herbs. Vast forests of jade-green covered the land yet there were plenty of lush meadows too. The trees were tall and rod-straight and cast a lake of crab-claw shadows onto the ground. In the dark depths of these lonely forests, wolves howled and pigs grunted and snuffled. They were places of great danger if you ventured in too far so we always brought our hunting dogs with us.
The most dangerous creatures were not what you would expect. Only the largest hunting parties could go in search of the Giant Deer. Not being used to humans, it would attack us on sight. I have seen six dogs and many spears hanging from its flesh and yet it would not go down. I have seen men flee to the trees in fright when it charged and see the same men getting impaled on its antlers as the deer butted them from their perches. And yet it was not our greatest enemy.
We realised soon enough that we were on an island of sorts. We had crossed the small land bridge during a drought and saw it close behind us with the first of the heavy rains. We could not see a single footprint or trace of a fire, and after the first few years, we knew that we were alone. It was both a blessing and a curse. There were only 48 of us and we longed to see others join us so that our tribe could multiply and prosper. There was so much food available that, in those first few years, we never felt the hunger cramps in our stomach. We were happy and content except for our two greatest foes: the weather and the bears.
It was a damp climate and many times we were forced to seek shelter in caves. Imagine the night closing in with clouds of tar-black boiling in the sky above. Sheets of lightning flashed in the sky and the noise was like a dragon’s cough repeating over and over again. We would send the dogs into the cave and wait outside with our heavy bear-spears and heavier hearts. Never have any of us felt closer to death than at that moment. Time and again, the most dreadful howls and roars would come from the cave and a blur of brown would attack us with fang and claw. We would always kill it, thanks to the dogs distracting it, but some of us would never hunt again after. I tell you now that if ever a demon-creature of the forest was created, it is the brown bear. May the curse of disease and starvation lay on its head forever.
You may ask, reader, why we felt the need to rest up in caves when we could have built shelters and settled in one place. We tried it more than once but found that if we stayed, all the big game left soon afterwards. The wild horses would roam far away, the deer would retreat to the high ground and the boar would flee during the night while we slept. Trying to feed a group as large as we were on a diet of nuts and fish proved impossible. We also took care of our elderly as best we could and they needed to be out of the dampness. It may surprise you, but you can’t light a fire in a shelter. The sparks can take hold and burn it down.
And so it was that we could rest up in summer and autumn, when the salmon and sea trout filled the rivers in great shoals of silver. We made fishing nets from strips of bark, built great fish traps with boulders and wooden stakes and the women and children used harpoons for the fish that escaped us. We would even hang quartz rocks from the trees so that the fish would think it was the moon and gather around it. By day and by night, we hunted them down. Those nights were the happiest, when we sang around the campfire with a steaming fish stew packed with herbs. The stars would flash like water-fire and we would wonder if they were the souls of our ancestors. We had no Gods but ourselves, we would laugh, and think no more on it.
When we came at first, some of the herbs confused us as we had not seen them before. We had a simple system for testing if they were poisonous. First we would place them under our armpits and walk a while with them there. If there was a red rash, we threw them away. If there was not, we would then place them on our lips for a short time. If our lips tingled, we tossed them aside. Finally, we would chew them for about five minutes. If nothing else happened, then they were safe to eat. Because of this, we discovered varieties of cabbage, fennel and black mustard that we had not seen before.
When late autumn came, we would find ourselves once more patrolling the shores for razor fish, edible seaweed, crabs, mussels and barnacles. The bravest of us would wade out into the rocky parts and try to dig out the lobsters and octopus. The women and children would go into the forests with the dogs and collect crab apples, hazelnuts, beechnuts and mushrooms. The men built light rafts in case the mackerel decided to come into shore. When they did, they broke the surface chasing small fish, and I have never seen such armies of fish. They stretched to the line where the sea met the sky and made us feel good about being alive. They were such a greedy fish, sometimes they jumped onto the rocks in their excitement and we could scoop them up with our hands.
Winter was our most important time for hunting. It snowed nearly every year and turned the ground into a carpet of snowcloud-white. The prints of the animals were easily followed and we split into many parties to hunt the smaller game. This was the season of the fox and the badger, the beaver and the stoat. We also pursued the hare, the otter, the pine marten and the squirrel. We set game traps everywhere and waited for the arrival of the huge flocks of birds: ducks, geese, swans, golden plovers, oystercatchers and the cormorants who would return to the lakes and rivers. We hunted everything, we ate everything, but we always gave thanks for what we received. When the dark nights closed in, we would sit in the caves, making weapons from bone and flint. The women would scrape the blood and muscle from the animal hides and the children would play at being great hunters.
I can’t remember any of us living past 40 winters. We picked up disease from the earth, infections from animal bites, the lung-rot from caves and smoke and the laughing-cough from the screeching winds. Our children died young from eating poisonous mushrooms and sometimes they were born dead. We fought against the weather and the wolves, the boar and the bears. We fought the rain, the snow, the lightning and the sun. The one thing we never did, however, was fight each other. No matter what the problem, the tribe came first. No-one would betray the tribe.
It was a tough life, but it was also an earthly paradise. The world was young and fresh and many more beasts roamed the earth. We climbed snow-wreathed mountains, crossed Jurassic meadows and heard the piano-key tinkle of a thousand rivers on our quest for food. We saw blood moons and pale suns. We saw fire-rocks blazing across the sky and even saw days where the whole world was plunged into darkness and we were afraid. We saw many things when the world was young that can no longer be seen now. And though I am long gone, I urge you to enjoy the world for what it is. For one day, this world too will be gone. Someday you shall look back and wonder at the innocence of it, this world of problems and conflict, but a healthy and exciting world full of promise for its youth and peace for its elderly.