Exhibition

Another Contact - Another Trace: Beaker Settlement

The concept "every contact leaves a trace" indicates a substantial change to settlement in Ireland 2400-2000BC.

The Beaker People (or Culture) arrived in Ireland from 2400 BC. They brought new burial traditions, new pottery and new building types. They are called Beaker People after their distinctive pottery, which archaeologists originally suggested were for beer drinking.  Since Neolithic people had cleared forests from large areas of Ireland, there was the opportunity for colonisation and the Beaker People carved out territories in this partly cleared landscape.  Each territory had all the things necessary for year-round occupation including fuel, agricultural / grazing land and a formal cemetery.  

Four sites on the M1 show Dundalk was settled by Beaker People by 2000 BC. Two sites at Newtownbalregan showed circular huts made of wooden posts, clay and thatch. Outside one house a superb and very rare five-footed Polypod bowl was deliberately left in a pit.

Two more sites at Faughart Lower revealed several unusual pit clusters. These were of a ring of wide, shallow pits around a central hearth. These could be ovens for cereal drying, prior to grinding. Charcoal could be lit in the hearth and when the smoke and sparks subsided the charcoal could have been placed in the pit. Grain could be dried in a wicker basket placed over this. The circular arrangement shows that several of these could have been used at the same time. The ovens could also have malted grain (i.e. kill off seed that has already sprouted) to help beer brewing. A pottery vessel was also left in one of these pits.

ASI: What is a polypod bowl? 
A polypod bowl has a rounded base with some feet attached to allow it to stand. These are very rare and must have had a special function. The lack of soot on the base and known wooden versions in Europe make it unlikely these bowls were used for cooking. In the Czech Republic an analysis of fats from a polypod bowl showed the presence of beeswax. This could mean they were used as scented candle- lamp.


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