Our latest project at An Creagán is based on the findings of the ancient site in Ballynagilly, Co. Tyrone. A Neolithic settlement was discovered including a wooden house, the oldest known in Britain and Ireland making it hugely significant.
It’s a volunteer project which will include using old and new techniques plus incorporating building materials from the surrounding forest. Work has already begun on the project but if you want to get involved keep on reading to find out more.
The Neolithic house is on the crown of the hill and is the focus of the settlement. It was discovered in 1965, following bulldozing of the site. Pottery and flint was unearthed when the area had been dug up, this prompted the area to be excavated and the Neolithic settlement was found. After studying the original excavation reports and post hole plans it was interesting to note the building was almost square in shape. It measured about 6.5m by 6m, orientated east-west, making it a variation from the standard rectangular houses in the locality. To allow the long walls to run parallel to each other a trench was dug, 30-40 cm wide and 20-30 cm deep, into it planks of radially split oakwood were placed upright to form the house wall. Longhouses which were not clearly rectangular do not seem to be unusual in Ireland as similar have been unearthed.
Longhouses were widespread across Europe in the prehistoric period, many have been found and rebuilt with the easily identifiable rectangular shape. However, this type of house only reached Ireland around 4000 BC- the beginning of the Neolithic period here. Previous to this Ireland had led a very different lifestyle from those on the continent. Therefore, it is not surprising that many customs which were brought over from migrants were adapted. These migrants introduced a new way of life; Ireland became a country that began to settle down and live in one place, clearing the land for farming. Houses were built to facilitate this new way of life, however as noted this new way of living was adapted to suit the Neolithic people’s needs in Ireland. It was not unusual for houses to have been rebuilt several times during this period, as land often became unsuitable for farming. This makes the house interesting as it shows how Neolithic settlements in Ireland did not often follow the trend of those on the continent.