Shantallow kings of the Stone Age

Patrick Cairns and Ian Leitch with some of the artifacts found near Shantallow.  (1710JB50)
Patrick Cairns and Ian Leitch with some of the artifacts found near Shantallow. (1710JB50)

A collection of archaeological artefacts from Shantallow which date back around 7,000 years were on display this week.

They were discovered by a local team led by archaeologist Ian Leitch just last week on a site beside the River Foyle.

They date back to almost 5,000 BC which was the Mid Mesolithic period in the Stone Age.

The find includes tools and implements as well as what is believed to be the remains of human bones.

They represent one of the earliest discoveries of human activity in the area

The important artefacts will eventually go on display

“This is a very important find, the earliest record by some distance of human activity in this area of Ireland,” Ian said.

“These artefacts were found at Culmore just a few miles east of here in the past couple of weeks.

“It’s quite an array from axe heads to scrapers, hammers, stones and what we believe are human remains.

“It’s the earliest site in the Shantallow area dating back 7,000 years. These date back to the mid period of the Mesolithic period - the middle of the stone age.

“These are the oldest artefacts ever to be found in this area.

“The oldest artefacts ever found in this area before this would have been at Thornhill 5,000 years ago.

“That is a high status site and the only one of its type in the UK.

“Here were have a site which is at least a 1,000 years earlier and probably more.

“The human remains were found outside the site but we believe they are connected to it.

“They are badly decomposed but they would be after thousands of years in the ground.

“We have a left handed hand axe which is made out of flint.

“We have hammers, axes small blades, large blades all used during the prehistoric period.

“These would have been the cutlery, the knives and forks of the time.

“We can see some made for adults and some made for younger people or children.

“Having the items here in the library for people to pick up and touch is really getting them interested.

“It’s different in a museum where they are all kept behind glass in cabinets and you can’t feel them or pick them up.

“These will eventually go to a museum, but for now it’s a great opportunity for people to touch them for themselves.”

According to Ian the people who made and used the flint tools were probably nomadic hunters and fishers.

They would have constructed huts for shelter but moved on again when supplies of food became scarce.

Prior to the Shantallow discovery the oldest know site in the area was in the Mesothilic Period around 5,000 years ago at Mount Sandal in Coleraine, which was discovered in the 1970s.