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The Bronze Age

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The idea of metal working was first introduced to Ireland approximately 2000 BC during the Bronze Age. Copper that occurs naturally in mineral form was mined, smelted, alloyed with tin and cast to produce both practical implements for farming and decorative pieces for personal adornment. Settlement sites of the Bronze Age are rare though the recovery of metal artifacts and the distribution of burial sites show the country was extensively occupied throughout this period. The people of the Bronze Age either usurped or integrated with their Neolithic predecessors who had used the land before them.

They too lived in small communities with agriculture and stock raising as their chief source of livelihood. They raised domesticated animals including cattle, sheep, goats, horses and dogs. Wheat and barley continued to be the principal crops though flax was also grown early in prehistory as a source of fiber and for the rich oil supply contained in its seed. They used bronze sickles for reaping the grain that was ground for use in saddle querns. Houses were similar to those used in the Stone Age and occasionally were surrounded by a stockade enclosing livestock and containing other buildings for storage.

Permanent farmsteads for one or more family with houses, storage facilities, livestock enclosures and field systems formed the basis of Bronze Age settlement patterns. Evidence from archaeological excavations supports a view that areas close to rivers were favored settlement sites with hunting and fowling undoubtedly playing a part in the general economy. There is also evidence to suggest that the people of this period copied some of the earlier techniques of tomb construction though later they gave up the practice of group burials and turned to individual burials with cremated remains. Some of these graves were marked by single standing stones.

The Bronze Age cooking place or fulachta fiadha is one of the more common monuments. They placed a wooden cooking trough in a pit, filled the trough with water and placed heated stones into it until the water was hot enough to cook a large piece of meat. They wrapped the meat in straw or grass and attached a rock to the outside of the bundle. The stones were heated on a hearth nearby and continuously added as cool stones were removed. Fulachta fiadha are usually located near a readily available source of water.



Submitted by CelticKnot, from trip to Ireland

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