College Lecturer at UCD School of Archaeology
From hunter-gatherer to farmer - changing perceptions of the Irish and the landscape
How we live as humans affects the landscape around us. Today we shape that land with building developments, agriculture and roads. But what did Ireland’s earliest inhabitants do to the landscape when they started to move in, around 10,000 years ago? How did they live? And how did the switch happen from hunter-gatherer to agriculture around 4,000 years ago?
Those are some of the questions that Dr Graeme Warren is addressing through his research on the early prehistoric archaeology of Ireland and Britain.
Many clues from those millennia remain if you know how to look for them. Excavations of dwellings hint at how people lived. Stone tools offer information about where the tools were sourced from, how they were manufactured and how they were used. And pollen in peat sediments and the remains of non-biting midges (chironomids) in the layers of lake beds help to build up a picture of past biodiversity, environment and climate.
Along with his colleagues and students, Dr Warren has made key discoveries from fieldwork about how hunter-gatherers and farmers lived in the Céide Fields in Co. Mayo. This includes understanding how they used quartz, not flint, to make their stone tools, which has implications for finding early prehistoric evidence in other parts of Ireland.
He is also taking a pro-active approach to understanding how people lived, by reconstructing an experimental Mesolithic building at the UCD Centre for Experimental Archaeology to get a better understanding of how they were built, how they subsequently decayed and how they formed archaeological sites.
The work is challenging our stereotypes of how hunter-gatherers lived, and it is shedding more light on the complex transition to agriculture in Ireland.