ARCHAEOLOGISTS may have discovered dwellings belonging to some of the earliest Irish settlers.
The remains of what could be two homes in a settlement, dating back about 6,000 years, have been discovered in north Cork.
A glimpse into the light of other days came during an archaeological study along a corridor earmarked for the new Fermoy-Mitchelstown road.
The likely dwelling sites were among a number of interesting discoveries.
Ken Hanley, an archaeologist with the National Roads Authority, said his team had uncovered evidence of Neolithic houses at Gortore and at Ballinglanna North, near Fermoy.
“While the dates of the rectangular house foundations have yet to be confirmed, it is anticipated that the houses would have been occupied some time between approximately 4000-3500 BC,” he said.
In addition, he said there was some evidence of transient occupation at Gortore, where some stone tools have been uncovered dating to approximately 5000 BC.
Archaeologists believe the site was probably occupied for short stays by a hunting/fishing group in the late Mesolithic period.
The site appears to have been then re-occupied on different occasions through the later prehistoric period.
The teams also found two bathing/cooking sites, pointing to Bronze Age times (2400 to 800 BC) at Kilshanny and Ballinglanna.
“At Ballinacarriga, two ring barrows suspected of being Bronze Age, were discovered. One appears to have contained cremated human bone held within an inverted pottery urn. This was accompanied by a ceramic food vessel,” Mr Hanley said.
“A circular enclosure, with a souterrain (an underground chamber for food storage and/or taking refuge), was also identified at Ballinacarriga. This is speculatively dated to the Early Medieval (approximately 500 to 1000 AD), pending radiocarbon dating.
Another likely Early Medieval site was excavated at Gortnahown. It consisted of an iron working site with accompanying huts,” the senior archaeologist said.
It will require an extensive programme of post-excavation analyses.
Mr Hanley said it was anticipated that the sites will be fully excavated by May or June, well before road construction works begin.