Ferriter's Cove, a small bay located at the most westerly point of Dingle Peninsula, has evidence of Ireland's most ancient farming settlements. Ferriter's Cove is a popular sea-fishing spot. Catches here include cod, sea bass, coalfish, cod, dogfish, pollock and flounder. The cove offers fantastic raw scenery, with strong Atlantic waves gushing into the bay -- but Ferriter's Cove is famous for more than scenery. Near Doon Head and the village of Ballyferriter, this important Bronze Age Site was excavated throughout the 1980s and 1990s, and made a major contribution to our understanding of ancient Irish history.
The Ferriter's Cove Excavations
The excavations at Ferriter's Cove were begun by renowned Irish archaeologist, Professor Peter Woodman and his team in 1983, after a local amateur archaeologist discovered a stone age flint knife. When Woodman began his excavations, Ferriter's Cove was believed to be a Neolithic (late Stone Age) site. Among Woodman's team's findings were:
- A grindstone
- 13 stone axes
- A group of polished sandstone pebbles, containing patterns and other marks that revelead they been used as tools or utensils
- Dumps of shells
- Plant and animal remains, including cattle bone
- A small amount of human bone
- Various hearths (fire / cooking areas)
Of the 13 axes that Woodman's team discovered, most intriguing was a group of five mudstone axes bundled together. The manner in which they were clumped together in the silty soil suggested to Woodman that their owner's had purposefully hidden them. An analysis of the materials contained in the axes suggests they were made just a few miles south near Dunquin.
What the Excavations Revealed About Ancient Ireland
The results of Woodman's excavations showed that Ferriter's Cove was inhabited during the Mesolithic (middle Stone Age) period. In fact, carbon dating indicated that the mudstone axes were from around 4350BC.
- This was a hugely important discovery, because previously archaeologists had thought that Ireland was largely uninhabited during the Mesolithic period, apart from a small areas in the East.
- Other sites, such as the Ceide Fields at Mayo, have since given further evidence of communities on Ireland's west coast during the Mesolithic period.
- The cattle bones found at Ferriter's Cove are the oldest cattle bones found in Ireland or the UK
- Scientists now believe the meat may have was imported, and that the cattle did not necessarily live with the people, who had a diet mainly of seafood
- The marine diet was revealed in an isotope analysis of the human bone remains
- The large dumps of shells are also thought to be evidence of shell fish consumption
- Ferriter's Cove. Image by Conor O Rourke
- Ferriter's Cove Excavations. Photo by Greg Fewer