Flint tools found in 5,500-year-old tomb in Ireland
Published Date: 15 November 2010
Archaeologists have uncovered flint tools while excavating a portal tomb dating back 5,500 years in Co Londonderry. Cormac McSparron, from the Centre for Archaeological Fieldwork at Queen’s University, said they had expected to find human burial, but the nature of the soil at Tirnony dolmen, near Maghera, had caused any bones to decay completely.
“We have found several different types of flint tools a couple of really fine flint knives and scrapers placed into the tomb with the personal possessions of the deceased, presumably for them to take with them into the afterlife,” he said. It’s the first time in 50 years that a portal tomb has been excavated in Northern Ireland. Portal tombs are protected but weathering at Tirnony dolmen had resulted in a collapse giving archaeologists an opportunity to carry out a dig before repairs are carried out.
Pottery bowls dating from around 3,500 or 3,600BC were also found.
Mr. McSparron said there was also evidence for later use of the tomb. “It became a centre of local interest and a ritual centre coming into almost the Christian era, and we have found a really beautiful blue glass bead dating to 200-300AD which would have been placed into the tomb, probably as a pendant rather than a necklace,” he added. Tirnony Dolmen is between 5,000 and 6,000 years old, according to Northern Ireland Environment Agency archaeologist Paul Logue.
“After standing in Northern Ireland weatherfor over 5,000 years some of the tomb’s structural stones have begun to crack, causing the capstone to slip,” he said. “When the tomb was first built it would have been used for interring the bones of selected members of the local stone age community. This could have included men and women, young and old. Finds from inside similar tombs include pottery and flint tools, possibly left as grave goods for use by the dead in the afterlife. “We hope to find out more about how this tomb was built, when it was built and how it was used.