Tuesday, 20 May 2008 – Clare Museum and the Irish Stone Axe Project (ISAP) at University College Dublin have uncovered evidence of a 6000-year-old trade link between Ireland and Great Britain.

This Looped and Socketed Axehead was found near Miltown Malbay in the townland of Knockliscrane in the civil parish of Kilmurry-Ibrickane in the barony of Ibrickane. It was found during field drainage operations and was brought to the surface by a mechanical digger employed in this task. The axe was found on the surface of the spoil heap and had not been more than three feet below the surface.

It is 6.5cm X 5.2cm wide. The axehead is in poor condition with the remains of only one loop still visible. It dates from the Bronze Age (2,400BC-600BC) and possibly had a more ritual than functional use. This axe was claimed for the state by Clare Museum under the National Monuments Act (1994) and the National Cultural Institutions Act (1997).

A stone axe uncovered in Doolin, County Clare in 2000 was this week confirmed as having likely originated in the Great Langdale and Scafell areas of Cumbria.

According to John Rattigan, Curator of Clare Museum, “The linking of this stone axe with Cumbria suggests there was contact between Neolithic people in Ireland and in mainland Great Britain.”

Neolithic Farmers

The Neolithic or ‘New Stone Age’ (4000-2500BC) is generally regarded as the period in which Ireland became a predominantly agricultural-based society.

As well as being the first Irish farmers, the people of this period were the creators of field systems and the builders of great tombs such as those found in the Burren in County Clare. Tools, usually in the form of stone axes, were used to clear great tracts of oak and elm woodland, which covered most of the country.

“Studies on the finely polished implement have found that it is different to the typical dark grey shale axes produced at a site close to the cobble beach at Doolin. More significantly, petrological analysis indicates that the pale green axe was of a type of stone known as tuff, which is typical of the tools produced in Cumbria. This discovery reinforces suggestions that trade links existed between the west of Ireland and western Britain during the Neolithic era”, stated Mr. Rattigan.

On display at Clare museum

The stone axe will be on display at Clare Museum in Ennis from tomorrow (Tuesday May 20). Also included for display will be a recently conserved bronze axehead acquired by the museum in 2004.

Mr. Rattigan explained, “This socketed and looped axehead was discovered at Knockliscrane in Kilmurry-Ibrickane, County Clare. Although badly damaged by time and weathering the metal has been conserved and stabilised, thus ensuring its survival into the future.”

Clare Museum acquired a collection of archaeological objects from Doolin townland in North Clare in 2000.

As a designated museum under the National Monuments Act the museum was legally entitled to retain these objects on behalf of the state. Wishing to know a bit more about the axes in its care and wanting to contribute to a national study, the implements were sent to Irish Stone Axe Project (ISAP) at UCD in Dublin for analysis in November 2007.

The aim of the ISAP is to establish a database of all known Irish stone axes and analyse the data to enhance knowledge of the different types, roles and significance of stone axes in Ireland.


Notes to Editor:
– Mr. John Rattigan (087-2065404) is available for interview and further comment.
– High-resolution images of the artefacts are available on request. Please contact Mark Dunphy of Dunphy PR on 086-8534900 or media@dunphypr.com
– Clare Museum is located in a restored former convent built by the Sisters of Mercy congregation in 1861. The museum exhibition “The Riches of Clare: its people, place and treasures” occupies two galleries and incorporates the traditional method of displaying original artefacts from the county with modern interpretive tools such as colourful display panels, audio visual and computer interactive presentations, models, some replicas and commissioned art pieces. The collection comprises a large display of archaeological material of local provenance on loan from the National Museum of Ireland, the De Valera Museum collection transferred from the Clare County Library, and locally collected artefacts never seen before in public.

This article reproduced with the kind permission of Mark Dunphy.

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