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    Vainamoinen's Avatar
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    Life in Mesolithic Ireland

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    This is some notes on Mount Sandel on the banks of the Bann in the Co. Derry.

    For anyone not familiar with the term, "Mesolithic" means Middle Stone Age. Sometimes people use the term Paleolithic to refer to the whole period before the Neolithic Revolution, and that's fine. But if you want specifically to refer to the later, warmer period where the mega-fauna were not around, or not in such numbers, and people were hunting smaller game Mesolithic is a useful label. I once heard Nora Gedgaudas refer on a podcast to the "Neolithic Paleolithic" and I assume it was the Mesolithic she was thinking of!

    Anyway, think of a more advanced lithic (i.e. flint) technology, including microliths, and of the technology of the bow and arrow - never present in Australia, by the way, where hunting up till the present relied on the spear and woomera (spear-thrower).

    So what did they eat? Always the first question here.

    With no knowledge of farming, their inhabitants had to rely totally on the natural world for sustenance. In this regard, the campsite at Mount Sandel was well chosen. Not only was it surrounded by dense forests full of wild pigs and close to a river abundant in fish, rich coastal and estuarine resources were located relatively nearby.
    Pork and fish - what more could you want?

    The faunal remains from the site indicated that a wide range of species were exploited by the campís inhabitants. Fish bones dominated, forming 81 % of the assemblage, with the remainder being made up of mammal (15%) and bird bones (4%). The fish remains included species such as salmon (48%), trout (32%), eel (7%), bass and flounder and these indicate that the nearby River Bann was intensively exploited. The fish were probably caught using harpoons, nets or baited lines, while more complex fish traps may also have been used. Mesolithic fish traps, fashioned out of post and wattle panels and wicker baskets are known from other Irish sites, for example Clowanstown, Co. Meath and Spenser Dock, Dublin. Evidence for wooden racks, over which the fish would have been dried or smoked to aid long-term storage, were also identified at Mount Sandel.
    The bird remains included eagles - perhaps used for headdresses as with Native Americans.

    In addition to the fish remains, a variety of birds species were found at the site and these indicate that diverse range of habitats were being exploited. Species of the forest such as wood-pigeon, woodcock and capercaille were hunted, along with waterfowl such as mallard, teal, widgeon and red-throated diver. Upland habitats were also utilised as evidenced by the recovery of grouse bones. Interestingly, eagle bones were found at the site and these birds may been hunted for their plumage rather than for meat (ethnographic parallels indicate that eagle feathers were often incorporated into clothing and head-dresses). The mammal bone, in contrast was less diverse and was dominated by wild boar (98%), with much smaller amounts of hare and wolf/dog also present. The pig bones suggest many of animals were hunted and killed within their first winter.
    Also interesting to see that they may have occasionally eaten carnivores, something we don't tend to do nowadays. And again there are ethnographic parallels for that (and bone remains and static istope analysis evidence of Paleolithic people doing the same even more frequently).

    Wild plant resources were also exploited, especially hazelnuts, water lily seeds and crab apples. Hazelnuts were particularly plentiful and may have been an important part of the Mesolithic inhabitants diet.
    That's the main bits on diet. It sounds varied and tasty.

    Mesolithic Mount Sandel, a Mesolithic campsite | Irish Archaeology

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    MEversbergII's Avatar
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    You had me at hazelnut <3

    M.

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    Vainamoinen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MEversbergII View Post
    You had me at hazelnut <3

    M.
    Love it. Meaning you like hazelnuts or you hate them?

    I quite like them myself but I think walnuts and pecans can give them a run for their money.

    Q: "Where would you have liked to have been a hunter-gatherer?"
    A: "Depends. Who had the best nuts?"

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    MEversbergII's Avatar
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    Oh, I love them.

    M.

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