The Céide (pronounced kay-ja) Fields at Ballycastle in Mayo are the oldest known field system in the world.
At least five and a half thousand years old, the fields consisted of large tracts of land enclosed by stone walls.
The Céide Fields are recognised by archaeologists worldwide as demarcating a significant milestone in the evolution of agriculture.
How the Céide Fields were Discovered - A Father and Son Story
- During the 1930s, shoolteacher Patrick Caulfield had noticed dry-mortared stacks of stones in the bog.
- Caulfield, from the nearby village of Belderrig, had been removing peat turf for fuel, as was the tradition, when he noticed had the stones.
- Their non-natural arrangement made him suspect they had been put there by humans.
- In 1970, Patrick's son Seamus, who had become an archaeologist, decided to excavate the area of the bog that had so intrigued his father.
- Very quickly, Seamus discovered that the area was a rich megalithic site
- The stone stacks turned out to be the walls between neighbouring fields
The CéideFields Today
The Céide Fields are still being excavated -- the site is over 10 square kilometers, with some of the walls running to two kilometers long. The overall site is expected to be much larger when fully excavated.
Other remains uncovered or part-uncovered from the peat blanked include houses, megalithic tombs and other stone materials.
Significance of the Céide Fields
The sheer scale of this development indicates that the people who lived here were highly organised agrarian society.
What makes the find more remarkable is that, during the era in which the enclosure was constructed, the surrounding area would have been thick forests, populated by long extinct animals such as bears, boards, wolves and elk.
Some have argued that the Céide Fields society were peaceful, since no fortifications were found, though there is no other evidence to support this hypothesis.
The people who lived here most likely traded with others, as evidence in finds of flint and other tool-making materials, that originate from other parts of the island.
- A short audio-visual exhibition tells the story of the CéideFields and interprets how the agrarian stone age would have lived here
- Guided walking tours of the site take about an hour -- good footwear is advised
- A small cafe area provides teas, coffees and small snacks