Amazing Archaeological Find in Cloosh
As the Supporters Bus headed to Castlebar for the Intermediate Final on Saturday 16th November 2019, Mary Kyne and Martin Lee had a brief chat. In the course of this conversation Martin happened to mention that he had come across what looked like a few old objects over the years. Mary then said that the replica archaeological material would be on display in The Courthouse on the following Wednesday, in preparation for a film shoot by the Museum of Country Life in Castlebar. Martin agreed to come along.
True to his word, Martin arrived in the door on the Wednesday morning, carrying a bag. The first object he showed us was a large molten limestone rock with an impregnated shell fossil. I had a couple of similar ones on display already and told Martin that this fossil was approximately 350 million years old. I also explained that when that particular fossil was formed, Oughterard and indeed all of Ireland, was submerged under a warm tropical and coral sea close to where Australia is now situated. Martin then said he had something else to show us, and as he reached into the bag again, the day would take an unexpected but very exciting turn!
In the earlier part of this year I had been researching the Neolithic period (4000 – 2500 BC). This was the phase that heralded the beginnings of settled agriculture and the building of the megalithic monuments. I was convinced , during my research, that the origins of the Neolithic in Oughterard was roughly in a line from the Peaks of Rusheeney (the Cloosh hills), along the fertile uplands of Maghera and onwards towards Lough Corrib in the area around Gortrevagh and Aughnanure Castle. As the research progressed, I was able to find solid evidence for a Neolithic presence around Aughnanure, and have already unearthed some potential monuments in Maghera/Raha that I also believe to be of Neolithic origin also. However, I was a bit light on evidence around the Peaks of Rusheeney, even though I knew it had to be there. I wondered would this evidence ever come to light to substantiate my original theory. I wasn’t too hopeful, possibly not in my lifetime anyway!
Back to Martin’s story, and as he reached into his bag for the second artefact, and slowly drew it forward, the hairs literally stood upright on the back of my neck. I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. In his hand, Martin was now holding a most beautiful polished stone axe from the Neolithic period, and I finally had the evidence I was looking for! Martin told me he has found it when he was building his house, many years ago, and had kept it all this time. This unexpected find is of major significance and importance to the Oughterard Heritage Group, and finally gives us hard evidence for a Neolithic presence in and around the Cloosh Hills.
The axe itself (see accompanying image) measures 11cm x 5cm, potentially 4000 to 5000 years old , and the polish and smoothness of its surface is as good as the day it was made all those millennia ago. It has a brownish colour after being soaked and buried in the brackish bog water for many thousands of years. The material used in the axe manufacture is a very sharp stone called flint. However, flint is only found in the North-East of the country, in and around Antrim, and this demonstrates that there was extensive trading going on across the island of Ireland all those years ago. We are deeply indebted to Martin for preserving this beautiful artefact for so many years, and for also recognising its inherent archaeological value to our local landscape.