Fermanagh Gold Introduction
 
ANCIENT IRISH DWELLINGS

The following is an article printed in the Australian newspaper, "Kiama Independent", on the 24 August, 1880.

"We extract from the Fermanagh Farmers' Journal the following account of the discovery of certain Irish dwellings supposed on good authority to be of the extraordinary age of forty centuries

One of the most interesting discoveries - from an antiquarian point of view - yet made in Fermanagh, or probably in Ireland, is the remains of a most ancient settlement by the cutting of peat in the Coal bog near Boho, County Fermanagh.

The find consists of two log huts of the rudest type made of trunks and slabs of huge oak trees. They are rectangular is form, measuring in the interior six feet three inches from side to side, and eleven feet two inches from "out to out". The roof segment from the burnt fragments found to have been demolished by fire, and the height could not be accurately acertained; but a close approximation was arrived at as some of the upright side posts were in situ, which indicated the roof to be about four feet from the floor.

The formation of these primitive huts was very simple, consisting of four oak posts, some of them as much as eight feet in circumference. Holes averaging about ten inches in diameter were cut, or rather haggled, through each end of these posts from four to five feet from the end, which was originally inserted in the mud. An oak beam about two feet in circumference passed through the holes in each pair of posts, resembling the ends of a common wooden bedhead, placed six and a half feet apart and parallel to each other. Oak planks very roughly made - simply cleft from the trunk - seven feet long and some of the measuring as much as three feet in width were stretched across, their ends resting on the beams supported by the posts, thus forming the floor. When the posts were pressed down into the mud the beams bearing the wooden floor rested on the ancient surface of the ground.

Small holes were cut in a most unskillful manner in the ends of the rough plank that formed the roof. The tops of the side posts were rudely shaped and passed up through the holes in the end of the plank.

Evidently the use of metal was not known to these early settlers. None of the timbers connected with these huts bear any marks of any instrument except that of a stone axe. A most careful examination was made by Mr. Plunkett regarding this point. In fact a stone axe belonging to him fitted into many of the cuts in the stakes (which were well preserved) with great exactness. The cut of the stone axe is necessarily more or less concave owing to the peculiar bulged form of the side of the instrument, whereas those made with a metal axe are long, clean, flat cuts. No object of metal was found at any time during the exploration but objects of stone, flint instruments, coarse hand-made pottery devoid of any kind of ornamentation, and rudely made wooden vessels, were found associated with the delapidated dwellings.

At the time these savage tribes erected the huts all the depressions in the low-lying lands in this country which are now filled with peat, were lake basins, which, through a long lapse of time, became slowly filled with peat. The bog in which these huts occur was a lake at the period of their construction. As evidence of this, lacustrine shells are found underneath the peat, and a deposit of shell marl may be seen in several places underlying it. The hut builders probably found a shallow part of the then lake to which they conveyed stuff in a "dug out" canoe and formed an island, which can at present be easily traced; it is oval in form, measuring sixty yards long and fourteen across; at its widest diameter piles or stakes rudely sharpened are found all over this area, and rough plank, like railway sleepers, may be seen in rows here and there through it, and generally rest on a thick mantle of branches, the whole covered over with a coating of clay and stones mingled with charcoal and ashes.

As regards to the antiquity, probably it is unique in Ireland. Everything associated with these rude structures in the Coal bog carries them back to the stone age when the use of metal was unknown. A very substantial evidence of its great antiquity is the fact that peat had slowly accumulated over this ancient settlement since it was inhabited to a depth of twenty-one feet, and is of a dark compact character. The growth of peat varies much according to the physical conditions under which it is formed, but peat such as this (according to the best authorities) would not at the very most accumulate more than one inch in fifteen years; so to measure the lapse of time since its occupation by the growth of peat would give it an antiquity of 4,000 years."

Article contributed by Sandra Stanley from Woolongong, Australia